As it turns out, having an independent counsel-like OCE to conduct investigations did not change the trend in congressional approval ratings or the public’s view about congressional dysfunction and self-interest. But this new process did result in the OCE sending an investigation that the House Ethics Committee found was “not substantively different from the hundreds or thousands of errors and omissions corrected by amendment at the request of the Committee every year.” Duplicative, just as predicted.
A recent letter to the OCE, signed by 10 bipartisan outside lawyers, expressed significant concerns over “ill-advised changes” creating additional issues about a lack of OCE transparency and the accused’s due process rights. They noted the OCE’s rules changes, “depart from the OCE Resolution and curtail basic safeguards that protect the reputation of Members and the integrity of the House.”
Former Sen. George V. Voinovich, for whom I worked, raised similar concerns about the lack of accountability and the potential for curtailing due process when leading the Senate’s effort to defeat the OPI. He was right then, and is right today.
In the meantime, what has the Senate done? Since 2007, the Senate Ethics Committee continued to do its work, confidentially in most cases, and when necessary, doing what Americans expect from it, investigating, educating and, when it believed appropriate, publicly sanctioning senators in a number of high-profile cases. Just as predicted.
Now about that congressional approval rating ...
Douglas Dziak is with the law firm Nixon Peabody LLP and previously served as legislative director and chief counsel for Sen. George V. Voinovich of Ohio during the senator’s tenure as chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee.