U.S. Senate: Watchdogs Call on Senate Ethics Committee to Open Ethics Process and Create Outside Investigative Office


Today, the Campaign Legal Center and Public Citizen urged the Senate Select Committee on Ethics to make its process of ethics investigations more transparent and more accountable.  In a letter to Committee Chair Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Ranking Member Johnny Isakson (R-GA), the groups urged the creation of an independent ethics investigative office similar to the Office of Congressional Ethics Office (OCE) in the House.  In the short term, the watchdogs urged the Committee to undertake a variety of other reforms to improve the ethics process, increase transparency and help to restore public trust in the process.

The recommendations urged revising procedures to create timetables for public reports on the status of investigations; updating current requirements for ethics training for Senators and staff; reviewing and updating of current travel rules to curb abuses of the exception for privately financed travel; making public recommendations for effective implementation of the STOCK Act; and initiating extensive Senate outreach regarding permissible campaign activities.

“The Senate ethics process remains too insular and too opaque, and is often perceived as more interested in protecting the Senators’ ‘club’ than enhancing the institution's public credibility,” said Meredith McGehee, Campaign Legal Center Policy Director.  “When ethics investigations go to the Committee and simply vanish for months or even years on end, the public loses confidence not only in the process but in their Senators.  It is time for the Senate to bring its ethics process into the 21st Century.”

“The Senate ethics process should be as transparent as possible,” said Lisa Gilbert, Director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch.  “Too little information on ethics affairs undermines public trust in Congress and its ability to police itself.  We urge the Senate to move forward and create a similar body to the effective office of Congressional Ethics.”

“The Office of Congressional Ethics has been a hallmark in restoring the integrity of the ethics process in the House,” said Craig Holman Government Affairs Lobbyist for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch.  “It is now firmly embraced by congressional leadership.  It works.  It is time for the Senate to open its ethics process to similar public oversight.”

To read the letter, detailing the recommendations to the Committee, click here.