CREW Deputy Director Donald Sherman testified in a public session before the House Ethics Committee on how to develop new ethics rules regarding conflicts of interest that could arise from members holding outside positions like director of a closely held business or a board member of a non-profit organization. Sherman’s testimony was guided by four main principles: preventing conflicts before they arise, regulating non-financial as well as financial conflicts, preventing even the perception of a conflict and tailoring ethics rules to the positions they will be applied to.
CREW’s main recommendation was that the Committee take steps to prevent conflicts of interest before they even come up. Americans should be able to have faith in their legislators, so even a perceived conflict could be harmful. CREW pointed to the executive branch ethics program overseen by the Office of Government Ethics and the Code of Conduct for United States Judges, both of which call for preventing conflicts of interest with measures like divesting from financial assets.
CREW explained the different potential ethics issues that could arise from members holding high level positions in businesses, nonprofits, and non-political outside organizations. CREW urged the Committee to limit the types of roles members could play in these entities to prevent conflicts. CREW advised that the Committee consider curtailing the ways that Members and staff can engage in activities like business negotiations, lobbying, and fundraising.