Government Accountability Groups: Independent House Ethics Office Must be Strengthened and Made Permanent

Today, Common Cause and more than 20 other government accountability groups urged every member of the U.S. House of Representatives to codify the independent Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) into law. The letter follows a recent move by House Republicans to hobble the independent ethics watchdog in the new rules package for the 118th Congress. The letter emphasizes that voters made it very clear in the midterm elections that they are demanding more accountability from their elected representatives in Washington, not less.

“Americans expect and deserve honesty and accountability from their Representatives in Washington, and voters made that very clear when they went to the polls in November,” said Aaron Scherb, Common Cause Senior Director of Legislative Affairs. “The Office of Congressional Ethics was created precisely because the House Ethics Committee repeatedly proved itself unwilling and/or incapable of holding Members accountable to any sort of worthy ethical standard. Americans will not tolerate a return to the disastrous ‘see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil’ approach to ethics enforcement that prevailed in the House for decades before the creation of the OCE.”

Congress created the OCE, with Common Cause’s strong support, under intense public pressure in the wake of a series of bribery and corruption scandals that led to numerous resignations as well as prison sentences for House Members and staff. Since its creation in 2008, the Office of Congressional Ethics has served as an independent watchdog providing nonpartisan oversight and accountability in the House.

The letter emphasizes that the OCE has referred an almost equal number of Democratic and Republican Members for further investigation. Furthermore, it highlights that the OCE helped fix a broken ethics process and repaired the damaged reputation of the U.S. House of Representatives.

In addition to Common Cause, the groups signing the letter include Accountable.US, Business for America, Campaign Legal Center, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), Clean Elections Texas, Democracy 21, End Citizens United/Let America Vote Action Fund, Fix Democracy First, Get Money Out—Maryland, Greenpeace USA, Indivisible, International Corporate Accountability Roundtable, Issue One, League of Conservation Voters, League of Women Voters of the United States, March On, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, Project on Government Oversight, Protect Democracy, Public Citizen, RepresentUs, The Workers Circle, and 20/20 Vision DC

To read the letter to the full House, click here.