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The Office of Congressional Ethics is saved

Flickr photo by Euthman

As the new Congress was sworn in yesterday, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) adopted rules that will ensure the ongoing work of Congress’ quasi-independent, in-house ethics watchdog will continue uninterrupted.

This watchdog, the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), is charged with making sure that representatives in the U.S. House who violate ethics rules are investigated and held accountable.

Prior to the swearing in, Boehner and Pelosi agreed on a proposal to reauthorize the OCE and remove term limits for its nonpartisan board, holding off the need to appoint new members to the board for each new Congress.

“It’s an excellent proposal,” Public Citizen’s Craig Holman told USA Today. “All the board members have indicated they would like to continue serving. This would solve everything in one fell, easy swoop.”

Anticipating the office’s imminent closure if congressional leaders failed to act, Public Citizen launched a vigorous campaign last month to make sure the ethics office would remain open for business. We issued a white paper detailing the OCE’s record of success, rallied alongside a coalition of fellow public interest groups behind the OCE’s reauthorization, and launched a grassroots petition that was signed by more than 17,000 activists.

A key strength of the Office of Congressional Ethics is its transparency with the public. For information about its ongoing investigations, visit oce.house.gov and, on Twitter, follow @congressethics. The office also accepts tips about potential violations from the public.

Bravo to Boehner and Pelosi for enabling this congressional watchdog to keep up the necessary work of making sure lawmakers who violate ethics rules are held accountable.

Rick Claypool is Online Director for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. Follow him on Twitter at @RickClaypool.