Judicial Watch Statement in Defense of the Office of Congressional Ethics
Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton issued the following statement in a coalition press conference held today by 10 groups, including Judicial Watch, Taxpayers for Common Sense, National Taxpayers Union and a number of reform groups urging the incoming House leadership of the 112th Congress to continue the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) and to oppose any efforts to weaken or undermine the office:
I’m Tom Fitton, President of Judicial Watch. Judicial Watch is a conservative, non-partisan educational foundation which advocates high standards of ethics and morality in our nation’s public life and seeks to ensure that political and judicial officials obey the law and do not abuse the powers entrusted to them by the American people. Hundreds of thousands of Americans support our cause.
For too long, the House ethics process was broken and in desperate need of reform.
That’s why a few years ago Judicial Watch joined other public interest groups who were all concerned that politicians obey the law and, as importantly, be accountable to it.
This led to Judicial Watch working closely with Speaker Pelosi’s Special Task Force on Ethics Enforcement to push for an independent body to help handle ethics investigations of House members.
The outgoing Democratic majority created the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) in response to public concerns about the “culture of corruption” in the House of Representatives.
I understand that some Democratic leaders have been unhappy about some of the supposedly strong actions the Office of Congressional Ethics took against members of their caucus. And the Congressional Black Caucus has been especially critical of the attention that the OCE has paid to some of its members.
And I know the Republican leadership never liked the idea of the OCE from the get-go.
So now there is a test for the new Tea Party Congress. Will Republican leaders, with quiet applause from their Democratic colleagues, shut down or weaken the Office of Congressional Ethics — the only major reform to the House ethics process in a generation?
Let me say this — if Republican leaders shut down the OCE, it will send a signal to the American people — and their tea party supporters in particular — that the party of small government is once again on the road to being the party of big corruption.
The new Republican leadership needs to break the cycle of cynicism on the policing of corruption in the House.
Judicial Watch conducted an Election Day poll of voters in conjunction with polling company™, inc./WomanTrend. The poll found that:
82% of actual voters said they believed the level of government corruption in Washington has either increased (43%) or stayed the same (39%) over the last two years. But 68% of actual voters said they believe the level of government corruption in Washington will either increase (24%) or stay the same (44%) over the next two years.
Clearly Republicans have major work to do — even their own supporters don’t believe Washington will get any less corrupt on their watch. This poll is a warning to Republicans (and Democrats) in the new Congress that they had better rein in corruption.
The new Congressional leadership should commit itself to finally draining the swamp of corruption that consumes that too much of Washington. Shutting down or weakening the Office of Congressional Ethics would be a terrible mistake and increase the already low public regard for the United States Congress.