More than a dozen current and former lawmakers are under scrutiny in cases involving their work on Capitol Hill.
That number may be less extraordinary than the number of separate corruption investigations into which they have been drawn. In earlier congressional scandals, like those that resulted from the Abscam bribery sting in the 1980s, several members came under scrutiny together in a single investigation.
Now, however, there are several seemingly unrelated criminal inquiries, from Washington, where federal prosecutors are continuing to pursue the investigation of the corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff, to Alaska, where two of the three members of that state's congressional delegation are being investigated over accusations that they accepted illegal gifts from an oil services company.
All but two of the lawmakers known to be under investigation are Republicans. One of the Democrats, Rep. William Jefferson of Louisiana, was indicted last month on charges of bribery and fraud, among other offenses. The other Democrat, Rep. Alan Mollohan of West Virginia, is under scrutiny over links between his real estate investments and nonprofit groups that he founded and supported with special federal appropriations known as earmarks. He stepped down last year as the ranking Democrat on the House ethics committee as a result of the inquiry.
All of those under investigation, Republicans and Democrats alike, deny wrongdoing.
Jan Baran, a Republican lawyer who specializes in ethics law, said he could not recall a time when so many members of Congress had been caught up in so many financial scandals drawing the attention of the Justice Department.
The Alaska investigation may be the most politically consequential since it focuses on Ted Stevens, the longest-serving Republican in the Senate. The Abramoff investigation is threatening to end the careers of Reps. Tom Feeney, R-Oviedo, and John Doolittle, R-Calif. Tom DeLay, the Texas Republican who stepped down as House majority leader in 2005, also remains under investigation.