U.S. Congress: Groups from Across the Political Spectrum Call for Reform of the Congressional Ethics Process


Today, a range of groups from across the political spectrum called on both the House and Senate to make significant reforms to their ethics processes to increase public confidence in the integrity of the institution. At a roundtable event on Capitol Hill to be aired later by C-Span, the groups discussed proposed reforms with staff from congressional offices as well as reporters.

Groups supporting the ethics reforms are the Campaign Legal Center, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Common Cause, Democracy 21, Judicial Watch, League of Women Voters, Thomas Mann, National Taxpayers Union, Norman Ornstein, Project on Government Oversight, Public Citizen, Sunlight Foundation, Taxpayers for Common Sense, James Thurber.

Among the reforms proposed at the roundtable on congressional ethics reforms are creating an ethics office for the Senate, giving subpoena power to the Office of Congressional Ethics and increasing transparency for the House and Senate ethics committees.  Letters outlining the proposals have been sent to congressional leaders urging action before the 114th Congress convenes.  At the roundtable, Public Citizen released a new study, “The Case for Independent Ethics Agencies:  The Office of Congressional Ethics Six Years Later, and a History of Failed Senate Accountability.”

“The current Senate ethics process is widely – and accurately – perceived as insular and opaque, failing to adequately identify ethical lapses and ensure public confidence in the institution,” the Senate letter states.  “The Office of Congressional Ethics has brought a level of accountability to the House ethics process yet the final arbiter – the House Ethics Committee – remains a secretive committee that has garnered a reputation for dysfunction and protection Members,” said the October 6, letter to House leaders.

“Facing historically low approval numbers, remedial action is needed immediately to strengthen the congressional ethics process and help restore public confidence in Congress,” said Meredith McGehee, Policy Director of the Campaign Legal Center.  “Without meaningful transparency, the public is expected to simply take Congress’ word for it that the process is working.  Given the record that the House and Senate have compiled in dealing with allegations of ethics violations the past several years, that is just not good enough.”

To read the House letter, detailing the recommendations to the House leaders, click here.

To read the Senate letter, detailing the recommendations to Senate leaders, click here.

To read the Public Citizen report, click here.