Common Cause, Allies Call on Congressional Leaders to Extend Independent Ethics Office

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  • Dale Eisman

Common Cause joined with more than a dozen other organizations and distinguished citizens on Thursday in urging congressional leaders to promise that the independent Office of Congressional Ethics will be retained through the 114th Congress. 

“The OCE has amassed an outstanding record of bipartisan ethics enforcement and has significantly improved the House ethics process,” the coalition said in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner, Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, and their deputies. 

“Not only has the Office established a record of fair investigations and bipartisan cooperation, it has provided a credible means for unfounded allegations of violations by Members and staff to be investigated and, if warranted, dismissed,” the letter asserts. “The public record shows that 64 percent of complaints that the OCE has received have either been dismissed or closed before conclusion of the process.” 

The authors said that well before the next Congress convenes, congressional leaders should make a public commitment that the office will continue its work regardless of which party holds a majority in the House. The agency was founded during Democrat Pelosi’s tenure as House speaker and has been retained by Boehner, her Republican successor. 

The six-year-old OCE, created after a lobbying campaign led by Common Cause and other watchdog groups, is the first independent agency created to monitor and enforce high ethical standards among members of the House of Representatives. 

“The OCE’s breadth of public investigations includes questions surrounding earmarks, travel allowances, permissible uses of legal expense funds, potential lobbying disclosure act violations, the combined efforts of which has generated significant improvement in legislative transparency,” the groups and individuals wrote.

Along with Common Cause, the letter’s signers included longtime congressional analysts Norman Ornstein, Thomas Mann and James Thurber, along with the Campaign Legal Center, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Democracy 21, Judicial Watch, the League of Women Voters, Public Citizen, the Project on Government Oversight, the Sunlight Foundation, and Taxpayers for Common Sense.