Don’t dump the Office of Congressional Ethics


So says the New York Times. The independent ethics office created in the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007 is under attack from both the House Republicans and the Congressional Black Caucus.

House Republicans are chortling over the Democratic majority’s troubles with ethics allegations, but they also are ominously signaling their distaste for the Office of Congressional Ethics — the one new player on Capitol Hill with a clear determination to do something about the morass.

The Republican minority leader, John Boehner, said he wants to “take a look” at the office if his party regains majority power — a reminder that his members fiercely opposed the quasi-independent office when it was created two years ago by Speaker Nancy Pelosi. … Grumblers on both sides want to gut the ethics office. That is because it has been fulfilling its mission to put life into the lawmakers’ own stultified ethics process, to penetrate the murk of misbehavior and keep the public better informed. Republicans would be the ultimate hypocrites to subvert the ethics office while campaigning as the all-new party of reform that, ah, yes, learned its lesson after the Jack Abramoff corruption scandal.

The Congressional Black Caucus should also reconsider their attacks on the office. Investigations by the office have already resulted in an admonishment of one member, Rep. Charlie Rangel, and charges brought against another, Rep. Maxine Waters, by the House Ethics Committee.

Any body that subverts the traditional role of the House Ethics Committee sweeping charges under the rug is a useful tool to protect the public from official abuses of office.