Amidst some serious waffling by Members of Congress on whether the Office of Congressional Ethics would survive to actively pursue congressional ethics questions in the 112th Congress, our friends in the good government community wrote to Speaker Pelosi and Republican Leader Boehner seeking their assurances that they would not weaken or disband the OCE.
We wholeheartedly support their efforts, but we would go one step further. Rather than dismantling the office, or even maintaining the status quo, we think the OCE’s budget should be doubled when the time comes to reauthorize the office next year. Its current budget of $1.5 million is insufficient for a body charged with investigating potential ethical wrongdoing by 435 Members of the House.
Speaker Pelosi established the OCE as an independent, non-partisan entity charged with reviewing allegations of ethics violations by House Members. It has been relatively successful during its short tenure, investigating 60 cases and referring a dozen to the House Ethics committee.
Perhaps not surprisingly in the self-serving world of Capitol Hill, some of those on the receiving end of the OCE’s investigation now want to dismantle the body. Others, though unscathed by the OCE’s work, decided early on to oppose its very creation.
As Congress struggles to redeem its reputation in the eyes of the public, it should be loathe to return to the days when representatives were solely responsible for policing their own. Both parties should demonstrate their commitment to transparency and accountability by giving the OCE the power and the budget to continue the good work it has begun.