Campaign Legal Center Urges House Ethics Committee to Release Findings & Recommendations of Conflict of Interest “Working Group”
Today the Campaign Legal Center called on the House Ethics Committee to issue a public report or statement on the findings, recommendations and conclusions of a “working group” established in 2013 to review House conflict of interest rules and guidance. The Campaign Legal Center urged the Committee to publicly release the group’s recommendations and the changes made in the guidance, as well as disclose the “ethics experts” with whom the working group met.
The conflict of interest “working group” was established in response to a recommendation by an investigative subcommittee that was looking into possible violations of House conflict of interest rules of then-Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV), after a New York Times investigation raised questions about official acts she undertook that benefitted her husband’s medical practice. The investigative subcommittee urged the formation of a task force to review existing rules and noted the need to issue “clear, thorough and comprehensive rules pertaining to conflicts of interest that the House community can readily understand and abide by.”
The Ethics Committee instead named a “working group” consisting of just two members, Representatives Susan Brooks (R-IN) and Ted Deutsch (D-FL). According to the Committee’s Summary of Activities issued in January 2015, the working group met formally 25 times and reached out to “ethics experts.” The Summary noted that the group’s efforts “resulted in changes to the Committee’s guidance on financial disclosure of modern complex investment vehicles.” An earlier Committee report stated that the working group spent 2014 focusing “on a review of the Committee’s guidance on the various requirements of conflicts of interest for Members.”
“While it is commendable that the House Ethics Committee undertook a review of conflict of interest standards, it is strange that the Committee would choose to keep the result of that review under wraps,” said Meredith McGehee, Policy Director of the Campaign Legal Center. “The public deserves to know the process of the working group’s review, its findings and the changes it claims to have implemented. The whole point of conflict of interest rules is to protect public confidence in the institution and in the motivations of Members of Congress. As we stated in our letter today, it is indeed ironic that the Committee should keep hidden recommendations and changes made to conflict of interest guidance meant to assure transparency and to bolster public confidence.”
To read the letter, click here.