National Journal: Watchdog Groups: Give Ethics Office Power to Subpoena

Sarah Mimms
Oct 15, 2014
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OCE supporters say it's hampered by its inability to force witnesses to cooperate.   A cadre of ethics watchdogs on Wednesday called on Congress to change that by granting OCE subpoena power. The watchdog groups, gathered in the Longworth House Office Building with members still out of town, included representatives from the Campaign Legal Center, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Common Cause, and Public Citizen as well as congressional scholars. ...

Over time, Campaign Legal Center Policy Director Meredith McGehee said, OCE has told watchdogs that its lack of subpoena power is becoming a problem. During the nearly six years since OCE began investigating House members and their staffs, the office has encountered a number of uncooperative witnesses. Several offices and outside groups, McGehee said, are "lawyering up and shutting up." ...

But watchdog groups would like to do even more by giving subpoena powers to OCE. And Congress should support them in that effort, McGehee argued. A stronger OCE could provide benefits not just for watchdog groups and concerned voters, but members of Congress themselves, she said. ...

"The whole point here is to be able to provide two things: One, [to give] the members of public confidence that allegations are being looked at and resolved fairly. And for the members, the ability to say, 'Look, somebody looked and I got a clean bill of health and therefore I'm fine,' " McGehee said of the creation of OCE. "And you really have to have an OCE that is strong enough to say, 'We have in fact looked at all the facts and we did not make a recommendation to move forward because we felt that the facts weren't all there.' We're a little bit caught in between at the moment because that 'clean bill of health' sometimes may not come about because they don't have the subpoena power to get all of the facts."

To read the full article in the National journal, click here.

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