March 28, 2006

Vote Against Office of Public Integrity
Shows U.S.Senate Is Out of Touch

Statement of Joan Claybrook, President of Public Citizen

The senators who voted today against creating an independent Office of Public Integrity to investigate ethics violations are out of touch with the concerns of the American public about the unprecedented scandals on Capitol Hill. These lawmakers are viewing the Senate from an internal prism, rather than a public one. The rejection of an Office of Public Integrity will only increase the lack of confidence the public has in the Congress to police its own conduct.

In addition, if the Senate moves to cut off debate on lobbying reform legislation this evening, much-needed amendments dealing with limitations on earmarks and the use of corporate jets at first class air fare will not be in the bill.

The Senate ethics committee has a meager record of confronting scandals and ethics violations. It has taken action in high-profile cases only after they have been covered by the media and it has been forced to respond. As for the scandals that have come to light in the past six months, they have done nothing.

Amusingly, senators recently said during committee consideration of the legislation that an independent Office of Public Integrity was not needed in the Senate but was needed in the House, where many of the scandals have emanated. Undoubtedly, House Majority Leader John Boehner will argue that if the Senate didn’t create such an office, the House of Representatives doesn’t need to either.

We compliment Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.) for leading the charge to restore the Office of Public Integrity to the measure.

The Office of Public Integrity was at the heart of lobbying reform legislation. Even if lawmakers create tougher ethics rules, they won’t be much good if they aren’t enforced. If the law is not enforced, it is not a law. Reform legislation is now crippled.

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