House GOP quietly eyeing ethics office for elimination

HOUSE GOP QUIETLY EYEING ETHICS OFFICE FOR ELIMINATION…. The last time Republicans had a congressional majority in either chamber, the results weren’t pretty — the infamous “culture of corruption,” especially in the House, ended up putting members of Congress literally behind bars. The widespread misconduct very likely contributed to the Democratic wave of 2006.

Most voters have probably forgotten all about this, or for those who do remember GOP corruption, at least hope Republicans won’t go back to their nefarious ways. But just a few weeks after the midterm elections, one of the first orders of business appears to be Republicans quietly eyeing the elimination of the Office of Congressional Ethics.

Despite publicly promising more transparency and disclosure of the inner workings of Congress, behind closed doors, the GOP leadership has made moves indicating the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) may be targeted for cuts or extinction.

According to an email seen by ABC News, Rep. David Dreier, R-Calif., called the OCE on Friday, Nov. 5, just three days after the midterm elections in which Republicans regained a majority and control of the House. During that phone conversation, ABC’s source said, the California representative asked for justification of its continued existence.

A 22-member transition team has been convened to craft operating rules for the new GOP-led House, but it’s worth noting that some of the members of this team — most notably Reps. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) and John Campbell (R-Calif.) — have themselves been targets of ethics investigations.

To clarify, the Office of Congressional Ethics is tasked with reviewing complaints against lawmakers, and deciding whether to refer the disputes to the House ethics committee (technically, the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct) for investigation. If Republicans shut down OCE, the process of holding members accountable for ethics transgressions would either have to be immediately replaced with a new system, or the process would simply cease to function.

It’s not surprising, of course, that some Republicans would want to scrap the office; one assumes arsonists would want to shut down fire departments, too. But the effort, if it proceeds, should send quite a message to voters about GOP priorities — the party promised to change the way Congress operates, but voters may not have realized that meant making it easier for representatives to get away with ethics violations.