In light of recent ethics violations, Delaware Congressman Mike Castle and Rep. Todd Platts (R-PA) introduced the Accountability and Transparency in Ethics Act to create a more open and honest political process by prohibiting the use of campaign funds to compensate spouses and other immediate family members; requiring ethics training for lobbyists each Congress; and extending the amount of time between service for those Members of Congress, senior staff, and executive branch officials who wish to lobby Congress from one year to two years. Additionally, amid calls to block public access to investigations within the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), this bill would further strengthen the OCE by providing this independent investigatory body with the power to subpoena when exploring complaints against Members to ensure integrity in Congress.
"Recent and past ethics violations by a handful of elected officials illustrate the critical need to further strengthen Congressional ethics rules in order to bring additional accountability and transparency to the federal government," said Rep. Castle. "I have consistently supported measures to strengthen the review structure, including a vote in favor of a resolution to establish an independent Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE). Unfortunately, this entity lacks the necessary subpoena power, which I believe is critical. Also, there is currently an effort underway to strip this important investigatory body of even more authority. The Accountability and Transparency in Ethics Act prevents campaign payment to the candidate's family, empowers the OCE with currently lacking subpoena power, and puts more distance between Members and lobbyists."
"Public service is a noble profession filled with many good people. The recurring ethical scandals in Washington, however, have severely eroded the trust that the American people have in Congress -- and understandably so," said Rep. Platts. "This legislation would strengthen reform efforts and bring more accountability to Washington at a time when the American people are demanding their government become more open and transparent."
Specifically, the Accountability and Transparency in Ethics Act would:
* Prohibit a campaign committee or leadership PAC of a candidate or Federal office holder from making payments to a spouse or immediate family member of the candidate for services provided;
* Require registered lobbyists to complete eight hours of ethics training conducted by the House Committee on Standards each Congress;
* Expand the powers of the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) to include the power of subpoena in order to collect all necessary information and conduct comprehensive and accurate investigations into possible ethics violations;
* Express the Sense of Congress that any changes to the OCE should be made to strengthen its powers, not weaken this body;
* Extend the amount of time between service for Members of Congress, senior staff, and executive brand officials who wish to lobby Congress from one year to two.