Office of Congressional Ethics Sees Huge Uptick in Citizen Outreach

More than 8,000 private citizens contact office for information or requests

An investigation into sexual harassment allegations against Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, was halted when he resigned in April. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Office of Congressional Ethics saw a considerable uptick in citizen outreach in the second quarter of 2018. At the same time, three referrals were sent to the House Ethics Committee for action.

Over 8,300 private citizens contacted the Office of Congressional Ethics during the second quarter, up from 580 in the first quarter of 2018, according to the OCE’s most recent quarterly report. In the last year, citizen contacts had previously topped out at 1,450 per quarter. The contacts fall into two categories: Allegations of misconduct and requests for information about the OCE.

Meanwhile, two referrals were sent to the Ethics Committee for review between April and June 2018 and one was transmitted to the Ethics Committee for dismissal. 

Although the report did not name names associated with the three referrals, the Ethics Committee did announce two actions concerning current members.

In early April, the House Ethics Committee announced it was reviewing a referral from the OCE about allegations that Tennessee Republican Rep. John J. Duncan Jr.’s campaign committee and leadership PAC reported campaign disbursements that “may not be legitimate and verifiable campaign expenditures attributable to bona fide campaign or political purposes.”

On June 28, the House Ethics Committee impanelled an investigative subcommittee to determine of Arizona Republican David Schweikert and his chief of staff violated campaign finance laws and various office spending rules. 

Also, two investigations have been halted this year after the subjects resigned: Rep. Patrick Meehan, R-Pa., and Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas. Both were under scrutiny for allegations of sexual harassment.

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