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Integrity in Brief

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The practice of permitting legislators to earn outside income, income apart from compensation for service in office, is a frequent battlefield in the fight against legislative corruption in the United States. Critics of the practice argue that such income creates potential conflicts of interest, pitting legislators’ personal pecuniary interests against the public interest. As public servants, legislators should not be accountable to other paymasters and should not use their legislative positions to enrich themselves beyond their official salary. On the other hand, legislators point out that their positions are generally low-paid and part-time, and that they have the right—perhaps even the need—to supplement their salaries. State legislatures have always included doctors and farmers and teachers and entrepreneurs; those legislators arguably should not have to give up their livelihoods to serve the public.

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