Common Cause’s work to improve ethics in Washington dates back to the first days of the organization. According to a profile of Common Cause in Roll Call titled “Keeping Washington Honest” from January 2004:
“Common Cause’s outspoken criticism of then-President Richard Nixon’s re-election committee, better known as CREEP, resulted in a General Accounting Office audit of the independent nonprofit group. Common Cause went along with it and came out smelling like a rose. …[More recently, t]he group has helped make significant institutional reforms on Capitol Hill, which include creating tough Congressional ethics standards and financial disclosure laws and establishing a ban that restricts Members from taking gifts, free vacation trips and expensive meals from special interests.”
In 2007, Common Cause was instrumental in passage of the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act. The bill strengthens public disclosure requirements concerning lobbying activity and funding, places more restrictions on gifts for members of Congress and their staff, and provides for mandatory disclosure of earmarks in expenditure bills.
In 2008, Common Cause led the charge to create the first-ever, independent office to oversee House ethics. The Office of Congressional Ethics is comprised of an eight-member panel of non-lawmakers and has the power to initiate and conduct ethics investigations and issue reports and recommendations to the House Ethics Committee.
Common Cause is working to:
- Ensure that nominees to the Office of Congressional Ethics meet the highest standards.
- Expand the Office of Congressional Ethics to oversee the Senate as well as the House.
- Shine more sunlight on ethics and lobbying information.
In addition, Common Cause continues to monitor allegations against individual members of Congress and take action when appropriate.