Independent ethics office likely to survive


The Washington Post reports that the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), the only independent ethics body in Congress, is likely to survive despite the criticism it faces. Republicans and Democrats in the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) have been critical of the OCE over the past year. Despite this, Republicans are unlikely to do away with the body.

In the 33 months since it was formed, the Office of Congressional Ethics has been called unfair, unreasonable and out of control. It has clashed with the House ethics committee and made enemies in both parties.

Yet the OCE – the quasi-independent body charged with vetting allegations against lawmakers and forwarding them to the full ethics panel – is nearly certain to live to see its third birthday.

Despite some media reports to the contrary, several Republican lawmakers and aides inside and outside of the party leadership said there are no plans afoot to kill or significantly weaken the OCE.

The OCE has been responsible for two high profile ethics cases. One involved a CBC trip to the Caribbean, where members attended a conference that was sponsored by corporations. Members of Congress are not allowed to receive paid travel to attend events sponsored by corporations or that involve registered lobbyists. The other case is the still-ongoing trial of Rep. Maxine Waters. Waters faces charges that both she and her chief of staff intervened to aid a struggling bank gain government bailout funds despite Waters’ husband’s investment in the bank.

The Sunlight Foundation has called for the preservation of the OCE and for Congress to double its budget.