The Congress: Guarding the Assets

Behind a thicket of perquisites and protocol, the U.S. Senate has long guarded its majesty from the vulgar eye. It forbids cameras in the visitors' galleries, permits a member to edit gaucheries and gaffes out of his speeches before they appear in the Congressional Record, grants Senators a unique immunity from legal action for what they say in committee or on the floor. Thus last week when two Senators proposed that members lay their financial affairs naked before the world, the club's leading antiquary, Everett Dirksen, rose up in Dickensian outrage.

"I...