Issue One Chief of Policy, Programs and Strategy Meredith McGehee released the following statement this morning:
Today, Congress will vote on a new rules package that includes a proposal – inserted in secret last night – to gut the independent watchdog that oversees congressional ethics.
“Acting in the literal dark of night while Congress was not in session, Speaker Ryan and his House Republican Conference decided to thumb their noses at the American people. Eviscerating the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) is a blow to voters of both parties who hope for honest, robust oversight of their elected lawmakers,” said Meredith McGehee, chief of policy, programs and strategy at Issue One. “This move actually hurts members of Congress. The bipartisan OCE is the only body that can provide lawmakers with a credible, clean bill of health when false accusations arise. In fact, the OCE has dismissed almost two-thirds of complaints it has received, according to one study.
Under the new rules, investigations would be relegated to the old boys club of the House Ethics Committee – who seek to do nothing more than protect each other while providing no independent oversight.
These actions paint a disturbing picture of the priorities and legislative practices in the 115th Congress. They are also in direct contravention of Speaker Ryan’s promise of openness and honesty as well as President-elect Trump’s stated desire to “drain the swamp.”
The amendment, proposed Monday by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), would place the independent Office of Congressional Ethics under oversight of the very lawmakers it is meant to hold to the highest ethical standards. Rep. Goodlatte’s statement explaining his amendment is a quintessential example of Orwellian double-speak with its claim that the change “builds upon and strengthens” the House ethics process.
Two prior Speakers of the House from both parties have supported the Office of Congressional Ethics as a bipartisan, independent entity. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) should continue in their footsteps and reassure the American people that elected lawmakers, officers and their staff are held accountable for misconduct unbecoming government representatives.