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Jan. 13, 2017

Government Ethics Again Under Assault in the New Congress

Note: On Thursday, U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the powerful House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, sent a letterto Walter Shaub, director of the Office of Government Ethics, threatening an investigation. Below are statements from Public Citizen experts.

From Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist, Public Citizen:

“Ethics oversight remains under assault in the new Congress, led this time by U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah). In a letter sent Thursday, Chaffetz railed against the U.S. Office of Government Ethics (OGE) for drawing attention to the unaddressed financial conflicts of interest in the incoming Trump administration. The letter concludes with an ominous threat that Congress could well terminate the agency in the near future, ending ethics oversight over the Trump administration.

The first attack on ethics oversight came on the very first day of the new Congress, when House Republicans believed they could quietly change House rules and neuter the independent ethics watchdog Office of Congressional Ethics. The immediate public outcry cast Congress into chaos and forced the Republicans to withdraw their plan.

But now Chaffetz is leading an effort to intimidate ethics oversight over the Trump administration by the OGE. It is time congressional Republicans stop their assault on ethics oversight and realize that the election should have been about draining the swamp, not letting the alligators run rampant.”

From Robert Weissman, president, Public Citizen:

“While the House oversight committee should properly be scrutinizing the unprecedented conflicts of interest of President-elect Trump, Chairman Chaffetz is instead directing his investigative arrows at the chief ethics officer who is bravely calling attention to those conflicts. This could be considered shooting the messenger, but is actually worse, because Shaub is not just announcing the conflicts but actively trying to facilitate corrective measures.”

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