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Hefley, Hulshof Outline Details for House Ethics Reform Bill

Location: Washington, DC

Hefley, Hulshof Outline Details for House Ethics Reform Bill

(Washington, D.C.) - In a March 7 letter to all members of the House, U.S. Reps. Joel Hefley, R-Colo., and Kenny Hulshof, R-Mo., presented their ideas for an ethics reform bill and pressed colleagues for their support.

Hefley and Hulshof plan to introduce their legislation in the coming days.

The full text of the letter follows.

Cosponsor the House Ethics Reform Act of 2006

Dear Colleague:

As former members of the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct (Ethics), we have a unique perspective on the shortcomings of current House rules. After careful analysis of these rules and based on over a decade of service on the Ethics Committee, we have crafted a common-sense ethics reform package that if adopted will help restore public confidence in the House.

Our proposal, the House Ethics Reform Act, will improve disclosure requirements for gifts and private travel while giving the Ethics Committee the authority and flexibility needed to operate in a credible, bipartisan manner. We are seeking your support as a cosponsor of this initiative.

We believe that transparency combined with credible enforcement are the best ways to reform the House's ethics rules. To enhance transparency, our bill will amend the current gift rule and require gifts over $20 to be disclosed. In addition, lobbyists would be required to report gifts given in excess of $20. Gifts reportable under this rule would be posted on the Internet. The House Ethics Reform Act also requires the Ethics Committee to pre-approve privately funded travel, including the source of funding and the detailed itinerary of private travel. All privately funded travel would be disclosed within ten days and made available online to the public. A list of passengers traveling on corporate jets with Members and Member Financial Disclosure forms would also be made available on the Clerk of the House's website.

Our legislation also calls for common-sense changes that will improve the ability of the Ethics committee to investigate potential violations of House rules. Under our proposal, the Chair and Ranking Member of the committee would be granted the ability to issue subpoena's earlier in the investigative process, which will promote the swift disposal of matters pending before the committee. The bill also allows for the use of a letter of admonition to dispose of an ethics matter, and gives Members advance notice and the ability to respond to an adverse ruling from the committee. To insulate committee members from political pressure, the Chair and Ranking Member of the committee would be presumed to serve full 6-year terms under House rules. And to improve knowledge of House rules, all Members and certain staff would be required to complete mandatory ethics training on a periodic basis.

In the wake of the recent high-profile scandals, it is essential for the House to consider reform legislation in a timely manner. During this debate, it is our hope that we can avoid political posturing or knee-jerk ideas that might sound good in a press release but are unworkable or detrimental to the House in a practical sense. We hope you will agree that the combination of enhanced disclosure and credible enforcement strikes the proper balance and will improve public confidence in the House and join us as a cosponsor of the House Ethics Reform Act.

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