(WASHINGTON)—Today, the country mourns the loss of Representative Elijah Cummings (D-MD), who passed away from complications of long-standing health challenges according to his office. The congressman served for over 20 years and was recently the chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee.
POGO Executive Director Danielle Brian issued the following statement:
Chairman Elijah Cummings was a titan of congressional oversight. He seemed to intuitively understand and revel in how his work as chairman of the oversight committee was both essential for his constituents and the country. We had the opportunity to work with him and his tremendous staff over the years, and his commitment was apparent, not just when he was up on the dais, but in those little moments in passing when he would explain why stopping the abuse of power mattered so much.
He was a reliable champion of congressional oversight and whistleblower protections. And he long fought to return Congress to its constitutional position as a co-equal branch of government.
While many will remember him for his booming speech on voting rights that went viral, I will remember his telling us in his office about the time he was chased out of a swimming pool for being black. It was as if he wanted to make sure the rest of us understood why investigations into wrongdoing by both the public and private sectors were so important to real people.
He did not see oversight as a way to score points, but as a means of driving progress. You could tell because while his committee’s scrutiny covered high-profile scandals in the executive branch, it also extended into the most arcane, unglamorous corners of the bureaucracy. His legislative accomplishments reflected his drive for progress—from reforming Coast Guard acquisitions, to expanding federal worker whistleblower protections, to improving the laws governing federal records retention.
A statement from Chairman Cummings’ wife, Maya, sums up his core values, which transcended political beliefs and embraced the nation in its entirety: “He worked until his last breath because he believed our democracy was the highest and best expression of our collective humanity and that our nation’s diversity was our promise, not out problem.”
Media Contacts: Danielle Brian, Executive Director at the Project On Government Oversight (POGO), 202-347-1122; or Tim Farnsworth, Chief Communications Strategist at POGO, [email protected].