Statement of the Congressional Ethics Coalition on House Speaker Dennis Hastert’s (R-IL) decision to remove Rep. Joel Hefley (R-CO) as chair of the House Ethics Committee

The Congressional Ethics Coalition today released the following statement in response to House Speaker Dennis Hastert’s (R-IL) decision to remove Rep. Joel Hefley (R-CO) as chair of the House Ethics Committee. The Coalition is an ideologically diverse group of eight watchdog organizations working for meaningful reform of the congressional ethics rules.

We are very disappointed that Speaker Hastert chose to punish Joel Hefley for leading the Committee as it unanimously admonished Tom DeLay for three separate instances of ethical misconduct. This decision appears to be a continuation of efforts by the House Republican leadership to stop the Ethics Committee from taking any action to enforce the chamber’s already-weak ethics rules.

When combined with the House rules forbidding non-members from filing complaints, the tacit agreement among members not to file complaints against each other, and the recent rules change requiring a majority committee vote to open an investigation, this is one more nail in the coffin of effective ethics oversight.

We hope the new House Ethics Committee chairman, Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA), will make good on his promise to the American people that he will “insist on the highest ethical standards .in the people’s House.” Rep. Hastings was a member of the ethics panel when it admonished Tom DeLay, despite the inherent pressure not to do so. We’re hopeful that as chairman he’ll follow his own instincts, rather than following the damaging path the House leadership has taken. That path can only lead to further diminished public faith in Congress – both the members and the institution.

Congressional Ethics Coalition: Campaign Legal Center * Center for Responsive Politics * Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington * Common Cause * Democracy 21 * Judicial Watch * Public Campaign * Public Citizen