Letter to the House in support of an Independent Office of Congressional Ethics

February 25, 2008



Dear Representative:

The Special Task Force on Ethics Enforcement released a proposal earlier this year to create an independent Office of Congressional Ethics. The proposal, H RES 895, represents a meaningful step toward fixing the broken and discredited ethics process in the House of Representatives.

U.S. PIRG and Common Cause applaud the adoption of stronger ethics rules through the passage last year of the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act. We encourage you now to take the next necessary step by ensuring that those new rules are effectively enforced.

The creation of an Office of Congressional Ethics would improve upon the current process in two significant ways.

1. The Office would, for the first time, allow for individuals other than members of Congress to initiate formal investigations into allegations of wrongdoing. The structure provides for much needed independence in a process that has been plagued by overt conflicts of interest. Built in protections for members of the board and the process itself will ensure that matters receive appropriate attention.

2. The proposal calls for reasonable reporting and public disclosure of the activities of the Office. This again improves oversight of the ethics rules by eliminating the absolute secrecy surrounding the existing process. The proposal strikes an appropriate balance between the privacy concerns of those facing allegations and the ability of the public to be informed about the actions of their representatives.

This proposal presents an opportunity to challenge longstanding practices that have served to undermine the integrity of Congress and we urge you to support the Task Force proposal when it comes to the House floor for a vote. If you have any questions, feel free to call Gary Kalman at 202-546-9707.

Sincerely,

Gary Kalman, Director of the Federal Legislative Office, U.S. PIRG

and

Sarah Dufendach, Vice President for Legislative Affairs, Common Cause


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