Walden, Blumenauer Introduce Bill To Improve Oversight Of Ethics, Lobbying In Congress
Today Congressmen Greg Walden (R-Hood River) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore) announced the reintroduction of bipartisan legislation aimed at the critical, but often overlooked, aspect of ethics and lobbying in the Congress: oversight of conduct and rules.
"A change in the control of Congress does not lessen the need for an independent and modern ethics process in Washington, D.C.," Walden said. "While most members of Congress conduct their business with integrity and the utmost respect for both the process and the rules, it's clear that the ethics system in place has too often failed to work appropriately or effectively. It's our responsibility to fix what's broken and ensure the American people that this and future Congresses will be held to the highest possible ethical standards."
"The abuses of power and corruption we've seen in the past were completely unacceptable," said Blumenauer said. "Already this Congress has moved forward to clean house with legislation that was supported by both Democrats and Republicans in the first hundred hours. With Congress now operating in a more open and ethical manner, our legislation is the needed next step that will establish an independent body to ensure the ethics process operates as effectively as possible."
The legislation, H.R. 1136, is the same bill that Congressmen Walden and Blumenauer introduced in the last Congress, known as the Ethics Reform Act of 2006. It would establish an Independent Ethics Commission consisting of eleven former Members of Congress - five selected by each the Speaker of the House and the House Minority Leader, and one selected by the other ten members of the commission. Commission members, who would be compensated on a per diem basis, must have completed their last term in Congress at least two years prior to joining the commission.
Walden and Blumenauer are seeking an independently-staffed ethics commission with a director who would ensure that staff members fulfill all of the functions currently performed by the staff of the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct. The executive director would serve for a seven-year term and could be reappointed only once.
Any recommendations of the Independent Ethics Commission beyond advisory opinions, letters of reproval and admonishment would go to the full House of Representatives. Actions that fall short of official discipline would not require action of the full House.
The Lobbying Disclosure Act will be brought under the jurisdiction of the Independent Ethics Commission. The commission will review the filings of lobbyists and post lobbyist fillings online quarterly.
More information on H.R. 1136 can be found online at http://thomas.loc.gov.
Congressman Walden represents the Second Congressional District of Oregon; Congressman Blumenauer represents the Third Congressional District of Oregon. Both are former members of the Oregon State Legislature.