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Past Event

23rd Annual Travers Conference on Ethics and Accountability in Government

Reforming Congress? Ethics, Accountability and Leadership in the Contemporary Congress

The 2021 Travers Conference will bring together experts from around the country to assess proposals to reform Congress. There is an active bipartisan effort underway in Washington, D.C., to consider potential reforms of a Congress that is commonly perceived to be falling short on the tasks delegated to it by the Constitution. The conference will engage these reform efforts with a particular focus on issues of ethics, accountability and leadership.

Panel 1: Ethics in Congress: Campaign Finance, Lobbying, and Accountability
Time: 9:30–10:45 a.m.

This panel will offer a general consideration of political ethics, with a focus on particular ethical issues relevant to congressional reform, including issues of campaign finance and post-congressional lobbying.

Moderator: Robert Van Houweling (UC Berkeley)
Bruce Cain (Stanford University)
Ellie Powell (University of Wisconsin)
Steven Hayward (UC Berkeley, IGS)

Panel 2: Leadership in a Polarized Congress
Time: 11 a.m.–12:15 p.m.

This panel will focus on issues of congressional leadership. It will address the broad question of whether leadership is possible both within and across parties in today's Congress.

Moderator: David Brady (Stanford University) 
Ruth Bloch Rubin (University of Chicago)
Danielle Thomsen (UC Irvine)
Vanessa Tyson (Scripps College)

Time: 12:15–1:15 p.m.

Panel 3:  Ideas and Prospects for Congressional Reform
Time: 1:15–2:45 p.m.

This panel will address the issue of what can be done to improve Congress. Does it actually need reform? What are some key reforms under discussion? Is it possible to move forward with reform in a polarized context?

Moderator: Ann Keller (UC Berkeley)
Tim LaPira (James Madison University)
Menna Demessie (Independent Scholar)
Donald Wolfensberger (Woodrow Wilson Center & Bipartisan Policy Center)
Thomas E. Mann (Brookings Institution and UC Berkeley, IGS)

Please join us for this virtual event! Registration is being handled by UC Berkeley. Register.


Presented by the Charles & Louise Travers Department of Political Science, University of California, Berkeley in cooperation with the Institute of Governmental Studies and The Commonwealth Club of California.

Captioning will be provided for this live event. If you require another accommodation, please contact Serena Groen ( at least 7–10 business days in advance of the event.

This is an online-only event.

April 16, 2021

United States


See Speakers and Panel Descriptions in Main Text.