June 03, 2010

TPM: OCE admonished Rep. Fudge’s Chief of Staff

By CREW Staff

Yesterday, we reported that Rep. Marcia Fudge has introduced a resolution that would weaken the power of the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE). Today, Brian Beutler at Talking Points Memo reports that OCE had admonished Fudge's Chief of Staff:

If your chief of staff had been admonished by House Ethics investigators, would you think twice about sponsoring legislation to limit the reach of the Office of Congressional Ethics?

You might if you were Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH). Last year, following on an OCE investigation, the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct admonished Fudge's Chief of Staff Dawn Kelly Mobley for actions she undertook when she had a different boss--Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-OH), who died in 2008. Now Fudge, along with nearly 20 other members of the Congressional Black Caucus, are seeking to rewrite the rules that govern the OCE, to prevent the panel and other congressional investigators from releasing reports or making public statements about unresolved cases.

But according to Melanie Sloan, executive director of the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the proposal is much farther reaching than that and she says Fudge and her supporters are trying to shield themselves and other members of Congress from oversight.

"The main elements of her proposal are that only people with direct knowledge could file complaints, so that would mean groups like CREW couldn't file complaints [and] they would be prohibited from initiating investigations without complaints." Sloan tells me, adding that the point of OCE was to provide outside groups a venue for filing complaints, since the House Ethics Committee does not allow that.

Congress isn't very good at policing itself. Weakening the ethics process isn't really going to improve the image of Congress.


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