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Slew of lawmakers probed by OCE try to undercut body

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This morning, the House voted on an amendment to slash the budget of Congress’s independent ethics panel by 40 percent.

By our tally so far, nearly half* of the members of Congress who have been probed by the Office of Congressional Ethics either voted to slash the panel’s budget, voted present or did not vote.

10 11 of the 26 current voting members of Congress (Del. Donna Christensen, D-V.I. cannot vote on the House floor) who have been probed voted to slash the budget. Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y., voted “present” and G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., did not vote.

So far, we have identified 34 members of Congress who have been under investigation by the OCE. In total, an OCE spokeswoman said it has investigated 82 members. Not all of these members have been publicly disclosed and the OCE does not comment on investigations until they’ve been referred to the House Ethics Committee, a panel made up of members of Congress with the power to punish lawmakers, the spokeswoman said.

As we find more members of Congress investigated by the OCE throughout the day, we will update our list of lawmakers below.

So far, it appears that 24 members of Congress have been referred for further review to the House Ethics Committee by the OCE. This includes 21 cases which have been publicly disclosed by the OCE. It also includes the cases of Reps. Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y. and Jean Schmidt, R-Ohio, whose reviews were recently announced by the House Ethics Committee. Finally, the 24 members include OCE's recommendation to review the alleged role that Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., D-Ill., played in former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's corruption scandal. The Ethics Committee has deferred investigating that inquiry at the request of the Department of Justice.**

The amendment was introduced by Mel Watt, D-N.C., who was investigated, along with seven colleagues, by the OCE before the board cleared him of wrongdoing. In a letter to House colleagues before the vote, Watt wrote, “all of these members incurred substantial expenses and experienced unjustified damage to their reputations in the middle of an election, and one of them actually lost his campaign."

In all, 102 legislators voted to reduce the OCE’s funding and 302 voted against the measure.

Interestingly, Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., who is being investigated by the panel despite OCE’s alleged mishandling of her case, voted against undercutting the board. Rep. Charlie Rangel, who was ultimately censured by his peers last December voted ‘nay’ as well.

24 of the 29 Democrats who voted to slash OCE funding are members of Congressional Black Caucus. CBC members have repeatedly criticized the OCE and introduced legislation to curtail its powers.

*note: The original post mistakenly counted Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., D-Ill., among those voting for the amendment. He voted against it.

**clarification: The original post said that 26 cases had been referred to the House Ethics Committee. That number is correct, but only 24 of these cases are known to be members of Congress. Two of these cases are regarding House staffers Michael Collins and Greg Hill.