Public Citizen heartily applauds incoming House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) for preserving all the strict congressional ethics rules approved under the previous Democratic-controlled Congress. These ethics rules include: The ban on gifts from lobbyists and lobbying organizations to members of Congress and their staff; the restrictions on privately-sponsored travel to no more than one-day trips (two days, if necessary), all of which have to be pre-approved by the ethics committee and the travel itineraries posted on the Internet, and, most important, keeping intact the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), an outside agency that monitors compliance to the ethics rules.
Earlier, we sent Boehner a letter expressing concern that the new Republican majority might attempt to weaken the ethics rules on Jan. 5. We have since learned that no such effort is in the making. In fact, the GOP package of proposed House rules released this morning add some very notable improvements in transparency and ethics, requiring that bills be publicly available on the Internet for 72 hours prior to a vote, calling for Web-casting of most committee proceedings and banning former members from lobbying their colleagues in the House gym.
The new rules package marks a strong beginning(.pdf) for incoming Speaker Boehner and the 112th Congress. Public Citizen looks forward to working with the new Congress to bolster the ethical standards of Congress even further by strengthening ethics rules where needed and vesting OCE with the authority to mandate witnesses and the production of evidence in its investigations.
Craig Holman is the government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen.