Holding the Government Accountable

Take Action: Ethics Office Should Be Strengthened, Not Eviscerated

US Capitol by Flickr user Teddy Kwok

The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) emphatically condemns the proposal introduced by US House Judiciary Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) at meeting of House Republicans last night -- which House Republicans voted 119 to 74 to include in a secret vote -- to gut the independence of the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE).

The House office was created after the Jack Abramoff and other public scandals revealed lobbyists giving money, gifts, and trips to congressional leaders in exchange for favors for their clients. The proposed change to Congressional rules would remove its ability to independently investigate and report on allegations of congressional wrongdoing.

This afternoon, the House of Representatives will publicly vote whether to adopt this change. Congress needs to hear from you NOW that you oppose weakening ethics in Congress. As few as seven calls from constituents can persuade a member of Congress to change their position. Please call your House Member’s DC office this morning (you can find your member by putting your zip code into house.gov) and share so we can hold Congress accountable for misconduct.

POGO Executive Director Danielle Brian said:

“Ethics watchdogs like OCE need to be strengthened and expanded -- not taken out back and shot in the middle of the night. If their barking keeps you up at night, it should. That’s their job.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) were right to oppose this move. Their colleagues who voted to eviscerate OCE are not only doing the American people a disservice -- they’re also hurting themselves because it’s the only body that can credibly clear them of false allegations of wrongdoing. In fact, the OCE has dismissed a majority of the complaints it has received.

Americans today are rightly concerned with corruption in public institutions, and this action - done in private without public debate - further weakens voters' confidence that Congress will do the right thing when the doors are closed and the lights are out.