Public Citizen Report: The Case for Independent Ethics Agencies

This analysis finds that the work of the Office of Congressional Ethics has had a dramatic impact on the activity and accountability of the House Ethics Committee. As shown below, the number of disciplinary actions taken by the House Ethics Committee – though certainly not large in overall numbers – increased drastically in the six short years that OCE has been operating as compared to the full previous decade of the Committee’s history. From 1997 through 2005, the House Ethics Committee issued only five recorded disciplinary actions against Members or staff of the House. From 2006 through 2008, the three years highlighted by the Abramoff scandal that resulted in nearly two dozen convictions or guilty pleas by the Department of Justice,2 the House Ethics Committee again issued only five disciplinary actions. But the House Ethics Committee has issued 20 disciplinary actions between 2009 and 2014, largely done with the help of the investigations and transparency of OCE. [See Appendix A, “Congressional Ethics Enforcement: From Decade of Inaction to OCE Period of Accountability.”]