Obama calls for independent ethics commission in House

Common Cause commends Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) for calling on the House today to establish an independent ethics commission in the wake of the page scandal. Obama earlier this year sponsored in the Senate a bill to create an independent ethics commission as part of the Senate’s lobby reform bill.

“If it wasn’t clear after months of inaction by the Ethics Committee in the wake of the Jack Abramoff scandal, it should now be readily apparent that Congress is utterly incapable of investigating itself,” Obama said in a statement. “The House leadership should take this matter out of the hands of the Ethics Committee and appoint an independent ethics commission compromised of well-respected leaders who the American people can trust to put their country before partisan politics.”

Common Cause has called on the House of Representatives to return to Washington DC before Election Day on Nov. 7 to establish an outside ethics commission to provide ethics oversight and enforcement of a body that has proven now beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is incapable of policing itself.

Such a bill already exists. Rep. Michael Castle (R-DE) is the sponsor of HR 4920 that would create an independent ethics commission that would report alleged violations by members of Congress to the House Ethics Committee or appropriate law enforcement agencies. The legislation includes a requirement of mandatory annual ethics training for members and House employees and also includes lobby and ethics reforms.