Rep. Fudge (D-OH) introduced resolution to weaken OCE
Last week, CREW welcomed the news that the Office of Congressional Ethics was actually acting against trading campaign contributions for earmarks. And, Melanie Sloan again blasted the "do-nothing House Ethics Committee":
Finally! A congressional ethics body has taken a stand against the trade of campaign contributions for earmarks. It is way past time and this is a well-deserved rebuke to the do-nothing House Ethics Committee. The failure of the Ethics Committee to act following the OCE’s referral of the PMA investigation was deplorable. It was further evidence – as if any was needed – that the committee exists solely to provide cover for members who engage in unethical and illegal conduct.
That was a good sign.
The House ethics committee could gain unilateral power to bury investigative reports authored by the Office of Congressional Ethics, under a resolution Rep. Marcia Fudge introduced Friday.The measure, which would amend House rules, would also set new restrictions on when the OCE could open an investigation and require new standards for referring matters to the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, commonly known as the ethics panel.
The Ohio Democrat did not comment on her proposal on the House floor Friday, but in a statement issued to Roll Call on Monday, she criticized the OCE’s structure.
“The Office of Congressional Ethics was created to provide more transparency in the House of Representatives. It was a commendable goal,” Fudge said. “We must now perfect its processes to ensure that those aims are achieved in a manner consistent with America’s spirit of justice. The processes must be fair to all people involved.
The "do-nothing" House Ethics Committee doesn't need more power to bury anything. It's already a graveyard for ethics complaints.
Here's the full text of Fudge's resolution, which has 19 cosponsors, below.
Amending the Rules of the House of Representatives regarding the public disclosure by the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct of written reports and findings of the board of the Office of Congressional Ethics, and for other purposes.
SECTION 1. DISCLOSURES BY THE COMMITTEE ON STANDARDS OF OFFICIAL CONDUCT.
(a) Clause 3(b)(8) of rule XI of the Rules of the House of Representatives is amended to read as follows:
`(8)(A)(i) If the board of the Office of Congressional Ethics transmits a report respecting any matter with a recommendation to dismiss or that is unresolved due to a tie vote, the committee shall not make a public statement.
`(ii) If the committee establishes an investigative subcommittee respecting any such matter, the report and findings of the board of the Office of Congressional Ethics shall not be made public until the committee has taken its final vote on the investigative subcommittee's conclusions. Such investigative subcommittee shall conclude its review within one year after the board transmits a report respecting any matter. However, the committee shall make public the report and findings upon conclusion of review of the matter if misconduct is found, but no report shall be released if dismissal is recommended or if the matter is unresolved due to a tie vote. At least one calendar day before the committee makes public any written report or findings of the board, the chairman shall notify such board and the applicable Member, officer, or employee of that fact and transmit to such individual a copy of the statement on the committee's disposition of, and any committee report on, the matter.
`(B) If, after receipt of a written report and any findings and supporting documentation regarding a referral from the board of the Office of Congressional Ethics or of a referral of the matter from the board pursuant to a request under paragraph (r), the committee agrees to a request from an appropriate law enforcement or regulatory authority to defer taking action on the matter, then the committee shall make no public disclosure unless and until the committee has acted on the matter.
`(C) The committee may not receive any referral from the board of the Office of Congressional Ethics within 60 days before a Federal, State, or local election in which the subject of the referral is a candidate. The committee may delay any reporting requirement under this subdivision that falls within that 60-day period.'.
(b) Clause 3(e)(1) of rule XI of the Rules of the House of Representatives is amended by inserting `or a report regarding a referral from the board of the Office of Congressional Ethics' before `is deemed frivolous'.
SEC. 2. PROCEDURES OF THE OFFICE OF CONGRESSIONAL ETHICS.
(a) In applying House Resolution 895 (110th Congress) during the 111th Congress, the following shall apply:
(1) Notwithstanding the procedure set forth in section 1(c) of such House Resolution 895 to undertake a preliminary review of any alleged violation of a Member, officer, or employee of the House, such a preliminary review may only be undertaken within 7 calendar days (excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and public holidays) by the board of the Office of Congressional Ethics after receipt, after the date of adoption of this resolution, of a sworn complaint from a citizen asserting personal knowledge of any alleged violation by that Member, officer, or employee of any law, rule, regulation, or other standard of conduct applicable to such individual in the performance of his duties or the discharge of his responsibilities.
(2) If, after the date of adoption of this resolution, the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct votes to dismiss any matter as frivolous or unfounded that is referred from the board of the Office of Congressional Ethics and directs that all records of the Office of Congressional Ethics respecting such matter be sealed, then the office shall immediately seal such records.
(b) The board of the Office of Congressional Ethics is authorized and directed to amend its rules to define the standard of proof required to--
(1) undertake a preliminary review;
(2) commence a second-phase review of any matter under consideration; and
(3) refer any matter to the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct.
SEC. 3. EFFECTIVE DATE.
The amendments made by section 1 shall apply to referrals from the board of the Office of Congressional Ethics received by the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct after the date of adoption of this resolution.