U.S. House: House Leaders Urged to Publicly Commit to OCE’s Continued Existence in 114th Congress
Today, a diverse coalition of congressional scholars and watchdog groups urged House Leaders from both Parties to publicly commit to the continuation of the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) for the 114th Congress and to do so well in advance of the coming elections. The letter to Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) notes OCE’s outstanding record and urges the House leaders to resist persistent calls from some in their respective caucuses to do away with the independent ethics investigator.
Created in 2008 in the wake of multiple scandals involving Members that resulted in a number of them doing jail time, the OCE has been attacked by a small number of Members who have proposed defunding or defanging the Office. Prior to the creation of OCE, ethics investigations in the House were shrouded in secrecy, undermining public confidence in the committee. The Committee operated behind closed doors, rarely took enforcement actions and developed a reputation for protecting its own. The OCE has not only provided a credible means of investigating allegations against House Members, but has also created new levels of transparency as its investigations are eventually made public. The resulting increase in disclosure and enforcement however, has made the OCE unpopular with some Members.
“Each Congress since its inception, the House has come close to eliminating the OCE. We are urging the bipartisan House Leadership to step up now and declare publicly that it stands behind the ethics watchdog,” said Meredith McGehee, Policy Director of the Campaign Legal Center. “The House Ethics Committee has proven time and again that it is not up to the task of enforcing the rules of conduct for Members, and the OCE provides an invaluable backstop to hold that body accountable and increase public confidence in the ethics process. The House Ethics Committee’s ‘see no evil’ approach to ethics enforcement has alienated citizens and undermined their faith in their elected officials. With congressional approval ratings wallowing at all-time lows, it is vitally important for the U.S. House of Representatives to show the public it does not feel it is above the law by guaranteeing the continued existence of the OCE.”
Groups signing the letter are the Campaign Legal Center, Judicial Watch, Taxpayers for Common Sense, The Sunlight Foundation, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), Common Cause, Democracy 21, League of Women Voters, Public Citizen and Project on Government Oversight (POGO) along with Congressional Scholars Thomas Mann, Norm Ornstein and James Thurber.
To read the letter, click here.