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WASHINGTON – On Tuesday, House lawmakers scrapped plans to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics, marking a major victory for good government groups and supporters of ethics reform. On Monday night, Representative Goodlatte (VA-06) had announced that House Republicans voted to gut the independent Office of Congressional Ethics, stripping the non-partisan watchdog of its ability to investigate anonymous reports of wrongdoing by Members of Congress.
“The American public is tired of special-interest politics, and our members of Congress listened when constituents spoke out against this week’s attack on the Office of Congressional Ethics,” said Andre Delattre, Executive Director of U.S. PIRG. “Following an election where voters made ethics reform a top priority, we need Congress to pass legislation that strengthens transparency and accountability rather than rolling it back.”
On Tuesday, 34 reform groups, including U.S. PIRG, and individuals with expertise in governance issues called on Speaker Ryan to oppose the Goodlatte proposal and remove it from the House rules being considered by the full House.
The rules changes announced Monday night would have prevented the nonpartisan Office of Congressional Ethics from investigating anonymous tips and from making public statements independent of the House Ethics Committee. The House Ethics Committee is composed of sitting members of Congress, five Republicans and five Democrats, creating a conflict of interest when these members are asked to pass judgment on their colleagues as part of an investigation.
The Office of Congressional Ethics was created in 2008 following corruption scandals that sent three members of Congress to jail. U.S. PIRG advised congressional leadership on the creation and implementation of the Office of Congressional Ethics.
The measure gutting the Office of Congressional Ethics passed Monday night in a 119-to-74 vote by the House GOP Caucus. The vote was not public, so there is no record of how individual members voted, and there was no public notice that changes to the Office of Congressional Ethics were under consideration.
The House will now consider a rules package without the proposed rollbacks to the Office of Congressional Ethics.
U.S. PIRG, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, is a consumer group that stands up to powerful interests whenever they threaten our health and safety, our financial security, or our right to fully participate in our democratic society.
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