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September 27, 2012 

Boehner, Pelosi Shouldn’t Put Off Appointing Replacement Board Members for Ethics Office

Delayed Action Could Mean Critical Loss of Oversight

 WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressional leaders should not wait until the last minute to replace retiring board members from the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), eight watchdog organizations wrote in a letter sent today to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

The groups urge the two congressional leaders to take action so that the ethics process continues operating without interruption in the 113th Congress. At the end of this year, the terms of four members of OCE’s board will expire, leaving just the two chairmen – Porter Goss and David Skaggs – as sitting board members. Boehner and Pelosi must each appoint at least two replacements for the departing members.

The letter, which was signed by the Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Democracy 21, League of Women Voters, Public Citizen, Sunlight Foundation and U.S. PIRG, called OCE  “one of the stellar ethics accomplishments of the House of Representatives, first promoted by then-Speaker Pelosi and subsequently reaffirmed by Speaker Boehner.”

OCE is an outside investigative agency that supplements the work of the House Committee on Ethics. Unlike the House committee, OCE’s board and staff cannot be sitting members of Congress and the agency cannot judge a case or issue sanctions. However, the agency receives complaints from the public, conducts investigations and provides useful information for further consideration by the House Committee on Ethics, which eventually becomes public.

“The supplemental work provided by OCE has helped change a secretive and ill-perceived ethics enforcement process into a reasonably more active system,” said Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen. “With trust in government at an all-time low, the OCE’s work is critical in creating at least some level of accountability.”

The letter is available at: http://www.citizen.org/documents/OCE-letter-to-boehner-pelosi.pdf.

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