Preserve Congressional Ethics Oversight


“We’re from the Government. We’re here to help.”

Those words are a cliché of chilling authoritarianism precisely because we don’t trust the government with oversight of their own actions. They are accountable to us, not to themselves.

Well, now the Republicans would like the body which judges the ethics of members of the House of Representatives to be accountable to … The House of Representatives.

As reported over at Politico:

In one of their first moves of the new Congress, House Republicans have voted to gut their own independent ethics watchdog — a huge blow to cheerleaders of congressional oversight and one that dismantles major reforms adopted after the Jack Abramoff scandal.

Monday’s effort was led, in part, by lawmakers who have come under investigation in recent years.

Despite a warning from Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), House Republicans adopted a proposal by Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) to put the Office of Congressional Ethics under the jurisdiction of the House Ethics Committee.

The office currently has free rein, enabling investigators to pursue allegations and then recommend further action to the House Ethics Committee as they see fit.

Now, the office would be under the thumb of lawmakers themselves.

The vote is this afternoon. Call your Representative.

I called mine. The actual call took 1 minute and 48 seconds. “Hello. I am calling to urge {my rep} to keep the Office of Congressional Ethics independent, and NOT to put it under the jurisdiction of the House Ethics Committee.” We had a short conversation.

If you value independent ethics oversight, please do the same.


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8 Responses to Preserve Congressional Ethics Oversight

  1. 1
    kate says:

    Thanks for posting this Grace. Looks like it worked (for now, at least). Protesting really does have the potential to make a difference!!!

  2. 2
    Grace Annam says:


    There’s still a lot of infrastructure stuff to worry about (wouldn’t it be nice if, for instance, we scored better than third-world countries on voter access), but this one’s a victory.


  3. 3
    RonF says:

    It is reported that Pres.-Elect Trump was no fan of this either and reportedly helped influence the cancellation.

  4. 4
    Ortvin Sarapuu says:

    @RonF: While Trump does get credit for stopping this, it’s worth noting that his objection wasn’t to the principle, but simply to the priority. He seems to think this was a desirable change, just not an urgent one.

  5. 5
    kate says:

    In support of Ortvin @ 4 This is what Trump actually Tweeted according to the article RonF linked @3:

    “With all that Congress has to work on, do they really have to make the weakening of the Independent Ethics Watchdog, as unfair as it. . . may be, their number one act and priority. Focus on tax reform, health care and so many other things of far greater importance!” (my emphasis)

    From further down in the article:

    Democrats and other watchdog groups were also critical of the Monday night vote. A coalition of more than a dozen organizations and activists expressed their frustration in a Tuesday morning letter to House Democratic and Republican leadership. Members also faced a barrage of angry phone calls from constituents.(my emphasis)
    “I can tell you the calls we’ve gotten in my district office and here in Washington surprised me, meaning the numbers of calls. People are just sick and tired,” Rep. Walter B. Jones (R-N.C.) said of the simmering outrage over the proposed change. “People are just losing confidence in the lack of ethics and honesty in Washington.”

    I would not count on father Trump continuing to protect the Office of Congressional Ethics if we look away.

  6. 6
    Ampersand says:

    Trump spokesman Sean Spicer seemed to confirm that Trump was criticizing Congress for their priorities, not for the action itself.

    That said, since it’s clear that not going forward with weakening the ethical oversight is popular, I won’t be surprised if Trump takes credit for it in the coming week.

  7. 7
    RonF says:

    Fair enough – but he did contribute to stopping it, and now that he sees how unpopular it was to try to cancel it I’ll bet he weighs in again if they try again. If the man wasn’t able to see what’s popular and jump on the bandwagon he wouldn’t have been elected President.

  8. 8
    Ampersand says:

    That’s literally true, Ron. But the bottom line is, it doesn’t seem believable that Trump’s incredibly mellow and barely-critical tweet would have stopped it if not for the popular uprising against it. Contrarywise, it seems likely that if Trump had said nothing, the public outcry still would have been enough to stop the Republican congress from jettisoning the ethics oversight.

    I do agree that if this comes up again, we can expect Trump to jump on the bandwagon. But if someone suggests an independent authority to hold the executive branch responsible for self-dealing and profiteering, I can’t imagine Trump supporting that. Fortunately for him, with the Republican Congress – who have now shown very clearly how little they care about ethics – in charge, Trump has nothing at all to worry about.