The news conference that 11 government watchdog groups held Wednesday on Capitol Hill to discuss agencies that police congressional ethics and campaign finance was an apt metaphor for the popularity, or lack thereof, of the two topics among lawmakers.
“They found the smallest room on Capitol Hill to have your press conference?” one attendee asked after checking out the digs on the sixth floor of the Longworth House Office Building. The bipartisan coalition had gathered to highlight board vacancies at the independent Office of Congressional Ethics and the long-expired seats at the Federal Election Commission.
Without a board, the OCE cannot complete its investigatory mission of monitoring misconduct in the House, and the always-split votes at the FEC have made the agency an emblem of Washington dysfunction.
“Both of these agencies are in dire risk,” Craig Holman of Public Citizen said.
Holman pointed out that it is “exclusively” up to Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to fill at least two OCE vacancies each.
Though both offices have said they plan to do so, they’ve stayed mum about the details. Neither appeared to have sent a representative to the Wednesday presser. The room was reserved by another lawmaker.
“Was anyone from the Hill here?” HOH asked.
“There was that one guy with the briefcase,” an attendee said hopefully.
A Judicial Watch representative said the group was “encouraged” by a Boehner spokesman’s recent comments to Roll Call that they would retain the OCE into the next Congress but wanted more than assurances.
“Actions speak louder than words,”said Chris Farrell, Judicial Watch’s director of investigations.
In related news, members haven’t been lining up to restock the House Ethics Committee, either.