New ethics rules are bold and meaningful; independent enforcement still needed

The new ethics rules proposed by the House and expected to be passed today are no-nonsense tough and a step in the right direction for cleaning up the ‘anything goes’ culture in Washington. The rules include a ban on gifts and meals from lobbyists to lawmakers and staff, as well as restrictions on privately funded travel, including a ban on corporate jet use by Members.

“We commend Speaker Pelosi for taking seriously her pledge to raise ethical standards in the House by passing these bold and meaningful new rules on the first day of the110th Congress,” said Common Cause President Chellie Pingree. “To be truly effective, however, they need to be enforced by an independent entity, and we hope Congress will create that too.”

Pelosi has created a bipartisan task force to examine the possibilities of creating such an independent enforcement entity, which is common in a number of states. Common Cause has called for the creation of an independent ethics commission to provide oversight and enforce new and existing rules. Many of the recent political scandals have stemmed from a complete lack of enforcement of existing rules.

“Many states that have tough and independent ethics commissions providing oversight of elected officials,” Pingree said. “Congress need to look no further than the states for expertise in how to do this.”