Established March 11, 2008, by House Resolution 895, the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) is the first ever independent body overseeing the ethics of the House of Representatives. The OCE was formed after members of a congressional task force proposed an independent entity in the U.S. House to increase accountability and transparency.
On this, the OCE's fourth anniversary, we wanted to offer a brief history of the office and a window into how we function.
Our mission is to assist the U.S. House in upholding high ethical standards with an eye toward increasing transparency and providing information to the public. The OCE reviews allegations of misconduct against House Members, officers, and staff and, when appropriate, refers investigations to the House Ethics Committee for further review. While our two-stage investigative process is confidential, in almost all circumstances, OCE cases sent to the Ethics Committee must become public.
Since the OCE was created, its authorizing resolution has been renewed in both the 111th and 112th Congresses. Last Congress (2009 - 2010) the office started 69 preliminary reviews. Twenty-eight of those reviews were terminated, 22 were referred for further review, and 18 were referred for dismissal. So far this Congress (2011 - 2012) the OCE has begun 23 preliminary reviews. Five of those reviews were terminated, nine were referred for further review, and four were referred for dismissal.
The OCE has reviewed a wide variety of allegations relating to earmarks, travel, financial disclosure, and legal expense funds among other topics. You can find those reports here.
For articles on the OCE, click here.