December 13, 2010

Ethics office (probably) not going anywhere

Despite coming under criticism from both the left and the right in recent years, the Office of Congressional Ethics appears likely to survive to the 112th Congress:

In the 33 months since it was formed, the Office of Congressional Ethics has been called unfair, unreasonable and out of control. It has clashed with the House ethics committee and made enemies in both parties.

Yet the OCE - the quasi-independent body charged with vetting allegations against lawmakers and forwarding them to the full ethics panel - is nearly certain to live to see its third birthday.

Despite some media reports to the contrary, several Republican lawmakers and aides inside and outside of the party leadership said there are no plans afoot to kill or significantly weaken the OCE.

A central complaint from lawmakers is that the OCE is too eager to make its investigations public. Even if the office ultimately finds no wrongdoing, lawmakers are forced to contend with ethics allegations until the dismissal is issued.

While I'm sure there are plenty in both parties who would love to see the office gone, Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID) correctly notes that it would be a politically tough move. With Congress constantly mired with terrible approval ratings, the American people tend to be really supportive of anything that helps "clean up" Congress and very unsupportive of moves which or which appear to undermine that.