By Miriam Raftery
January 3, 2017 (Washington D.C) –The first action of the 115th Congress was a closed-door vote by House Republicans to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics’ (OCE) independence and oversight powers. But hours later, after media reported on the action and members received a flood of calls from angry constituents, a new vote was held to scrap that plan and keep the OCE intact, for now.
The OCE was created in 2008 by then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in response to the corruption scandal involving lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who was later convicted of multiple felonies. The House Ethics Committee did nothing about that scandal. Nor did it take any action against Randy “Duke” Cunningham, a San Diego Congressman sentenced to a decade in prison for bribery and corruption charges. It also took no action against Congressman Bob Filner when he was charged with trespass after pushing past a TSA agent at an airport.
In light of the House Ethics Committee’s impotence, the OCE was created to conduct independent investigations, including probes based on tips from staffers, the public and anonymous sources.