Rep. Broun Wants Mandatory Ethics Training for Members

Posted March 4, 2010 at 1:09pm

Rep. Paul Brown (R-Ga.) introduced a resolution Thursday calling for mandatory ethics training for Members.

The measure, which would amend the House’s internal rules, would require lawmakers to fulfill the same training now required by senior aides.

“Ignorance of the law is not a valid excuse for accused criminals, and it cannot be an excuse for Members of Congress,” Broun said in a statement. “The American people expect their Representatives to play by the same rules, but in order to do so, they must first learn them. The House rules already require senior staff to complete ethics training, it only makes sense that their bosses should too.”

Under House rules adopted in 2007, every staffer is required to complete annual ethics training. Although the rules also mandate the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, as the ethics panel is formally known, to “offer” training for Members, there is no requirement for lawmakers to take part.

Under requirements promulgated by the committee, each House aide or officer must complete one ethics course annually, and can do so via options including a live lecture or online video.

Senior staff, defined by rate of pay, must also watch an additional video, or attend either a “senior staff” or “financial disclosure” lecture.

New aides or officers must meet those ethics requirements within 60 days of beginning work.

A statement from Broun’s office did not detail which “recent allegations surrounding several lawmakers” prompted his proposal, but the House ethics panel reported out two unrelated matters Friday involving more than a dozen Members.

The ethics panel ruled in one case that two Caribbean trips in 2007 and 2008 violated House rules because the events secretly received corporate funding.

The panel admonished Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) on the basis that his staff was aware of the conflict but excused five other Members who participated. All will be required to repay the cost of the trip, and Rangel on Wednesday temporarily relinquished the gavel at the Ways and Means Committee.

In another case, the ethics panel ruled that no Members or their staffs exchanged earmarks for campaign contributions with the now-defunct lobbying firm PMA Group.