OCE Chief Returning to Justice Department

Posted October 15, 2010 at 12:00pm

The top aide at the Office of Congressional Ethics will step down next month, the agency announced Friday.

Staff Director and Chief Counsel Leo Wise will leave Capitol Hill to join the Department of Justice in November.

In a statement, OCE Chairman and ex-Rep. David Skaggs (D-Colo.) and Co-Chairman and ex-Rep. Porter Goss (R-Fla.) praised Wise’s tenure as the office’s first staff director.

“Leo has done an extraordinary job in ‘standing up’ and managing OCE operations during its first two years,” Skaggs said. “The Board is very grateful to him for his exemplary service to the House and to the country. He’ll be missed.”

Goss added: “Leo assembled a highly-qualified team and led their work according to the highest professional standards. The Justice Department is fortunate to get him back.”

Wise, who joined the OCE in November 2008, previously worked in DOJ’s criminal division. His new post will be in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland.

“I’m proud of what we accomplished,” Wise said in the statement. “It was an honor to help build the OCE and lead it through its first Congress.”

House lawmakers established the OCE in 2008 in an effort to increase transparency in the normally secretive ethics process and to boost public confidence that the chamber could police its Members.

The OCE reviews potential rules violations and recommends investigations to the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct.

But the OCE, which reviewed at least 70 allegations since the start of the 111th Congress, has drawn the ire of Members, and the office’s future remains uncertain.

Nearly two dozen Democrats sponsored a bill earlier this year that would sharply curtail the office’s investigative powers, and Members from both parties have likewise endorsed the office’s elimination.

Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) has also raised questions about the office’s effectiveness, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has acknowledged the fledgling office will come under review in the next session.

The OCE’s board will meet to name a successor to Wise, but on Friday, it did not indicate its time for doing so.