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Government by Investigation

Congress, Presidents, and the Search for Answers, 1945–2012

Paul C. Light

Publication Year: 2013

Paul C. Light examines and evaluates the 100 most significant investigations of policy failures, bureaucratic mistakes, and personal misconduct undertaken by the U.S. federal government between 1945 and 2012. Launched by Congress or the president, sometimes by both at the same time, the investigations at the core of this book were driven by the search for answers about significant breakdowns in government performance. Light reveals which investigations were most effective, and why.

Published by: Brookings Institution Press

Front Cover

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pp. 1-3

Title Page

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p. 4-4

Copyright Information

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p. 5-5

Table of Contents

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pp. v-7

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pp. vii-ix

I have always viewed acknowledgments as the beginning of a denouement. This book is now done, but there are still questions to be answered, and answers to be questioned. If I have done my work well, the book will provoke healthy debate about when and...

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1. Introducing the Search for Answers

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pp. 1-10

In an ideal investigatory world, all 100 investigations would have asked every possible question, assessed every possible answer, and fixed the breakdown once and for all. But in the real world covered by this book, one group of investigations asked most of the...

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2. Counting Investigations

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pp. 11-55

Each of the 100 investigations covered in this book left its own mark on history and followed its own path to impact or irrelevance. If not absolutely unique, each investigation nevertheless created its own story, including some that became the grist of...

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3. Creating Footprints

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pp. 56-125

The mere announcement of an investigation can create the promise of significance, including a measure of deterrence based on fear and foreboding. This spark often follows a highly visible government breakdown and the engagement of a well-known investigator such as Jack Brooks, Barney Frank...

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4. Making Investigations Count

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pp. 126-190

Investigations done right have inherent value, however. They thicken the legislative record for judicial interpretation, identify vulnerabilities and breaking points, help solve the delegation dilemma, strengthen constitutional checks and balances, create credible deterrence against...

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5. Creating High-Impact Investigations

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pp. 191-216

A central lesson of this book is that investigations can be very well done, but not have a significant impact on government performance. Moreover, even when doing it right matters, not all aspects of the good investigation carry equal weight in repairing or preventing a breakdown. Visibility is no doubt a...

Appendix A: Interview Respondents

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pp. 217-220

Appendix B: Sources

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pp. 221-223

Appendix C: Investigation Resumes, 1945-2012

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pp. 225-248

Appendix D: Supporting Statistical Analysis

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pp. 249-267


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pp. 269-301


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pp. 303-316

Back Cover

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p. 328-328

E-ISBN-13: 9780815722694
E-ISBN-10: 0815722699
Print-ISBN-13: 9780815722687

Page Count: 316
Publication Year: 2013