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Reform Groups Urge Congressional Leaders to Ensure Office of Congressional Ethics Operates Without Interruption

Reform Groups Urge Congressional Leaders to Ensure Office of Congressional Ethics Operates Without Interruption

Diverse Coalition Calls for Reauthorization of OCE in New Congress

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. House of Representatives leaders should reauthorize the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) in the next Congress, a diverse coalition of public interest groups and academics said in a letter today.

The letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was sent by the Campaign for Accountability, Campaign Legal Center, Center for Responsive Politics, Common Cause, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Demand Progress, Democracy 21, Issue One, James Thurber, Judicial Watch, League of Women Voters, National Taxpayers Union, Norman Ornstein, OpenTheGovernment.org, Public Citizen, Taxpayers for Common Sense and Thomas Mann.

They noted that the OCE is “one of the stellar ethics accomplishments of the House of Representatives, first established in 2008. The agency has functioned successfully ever since.”

The OCE is an outside investigative agency that supplements the work of the House Ethics Committee. Unlike the Ethics Committee, the OCE’s board and staff cannot be sitting members of Congress and the agency cannot judge a case or issue sanctions. However, the agency does receive complaints from the public, conduct investigations and provide useful information for consideration by the Ethics Committee, which eventually becomes public record. The supplemental work provided by the OCE, notes the letter, “has helped change a secretive and oft-perceived moribund ethics enforcement process into a reasonably more accountable and active system.”

The letter applauds the leadership and members of both congressional conferences for creating and maintaining the semi-independent agency as part of the congressional ethics process. “To thecredit ofboth congressional parties, thecongressionalethicsprocessis nolongerviewed as merelya meansto sweep problems undertherug. … The agencyprovidesacriticalmeans foroversightand accountability, which had previouslybeenlacking,” the letter said.

The letter concludes with a call for the House to reauthorize the OCE in the coming session:

“Yourleadershipin the establishmentand maintenanceofthe OCE hasresultedina marked improvement in the House ethicsenforcementprocess. Weurge you to continuethis leadershipin the nextCongress.”

You can read the letter here.