SENATE CONCURRENT RESOLUTION 82--TO ESTABLISH A PROCEDURE FOR THE APPOINTMENT OF INDEPENDENT CONGRESSIONAL ETHICS OFFICE TO INVESTIGATE ETHICS VIOLATIONS IN THE SENATE AND THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
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Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, today I am submitting a concurrent resolution establishing an independent Congressional Inspector General to investigate ethics violations in the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Every Member of Congress must be held to the highest ethical standards. Those who violate the public trust must be held accountable for their actions. Unfortunately, our current system does not measure up. Too often, Congress has been unable or unwilling to effectively investigate or appropriately punish those Members who commit serious ethical violations.
In December 2005, an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showed that just five percent of Americans believe all Members of Congress are honest and trustworthy. The same poll showed that most Americans believe that most Members of Congress are dishonest and are not trustworthy.
This is simply unacceptable. We have to restore the faith of the American people in the Congress. Thus, I am submitting a resolution to establish an independent Congressional Inspector General with the authority to investigate and punish violations of the ethics rules by Members of Congress, Congressional staff and the Capitol Police.
The Congressional Inspector General will make a preliminary investigation into all ethical misconduct allegations to determine whether there is probable cause that a full investigation is warranted. The Congressional Inspector General has expansive authority to investigate ethics allegations, including improper conduct that may reflect upon the Senate or House of Representatives, significant violations of law, violations of the Senate Code of Official Conduct or the ethics rules of the House of Representatives, and violations of Congressional rules or regulations relating to the conduct of Members in their performance of official duties. If a full investigation is warranted, a public report will be developed for the House and Senate Ethics Committees or the Justice Department describing any credible evidence of improper conduct or a violation of law.
To insure that this new ethics process is not abused, anyone who knowingly files a false ethics complaint will be subject to a $10,000 fine or the costs incurred by the investigation, whichever is greater. They could also be subject to up to one year in prison and will be banned from making further complaints.
The Congressional Inspector General will not be able to accept new charges filed 30 days prior to a primary election for which the Member of Congress in question is a candidate or 60 days prior to a general election for which the Member of Congress is a candidate.
The Congressional Inspector General will also provide periodic reports to Congress on how to update our ethics laws and how to improve the investigation and enforcement of current ethics laws. Finally, it would release an annual report of violations by Members of Congress and Congressional staff.
I also strongly support other legislation to develop independent oversight of the Congressional ethics process including the Congressional Ethics Enforcement Commission Act of 2006 that was introduced by Senator Obama earlier this year. I look forward to working with my colleagues to develop ethics reform legislation in the upcoming months.
We need to change the way business is done in Washington. We must convince the American people that our government responds to the needs of our people, not to special interests. This resolution will help restore the faith of the American people in their government. Together we can work to change our government for the better.