The Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) is an independent, non-partisan entity charged with reviewing allegations of misconduct against Members, officers, and staff of the United States House of Representatives and, when appropriate, referring matters to the House Committee on Ethics. In all but one set of circumstances, the report and findings of the OCE Board must be publicly released. The OCE has a professional staff consisting primarily of attorneys and other professionals with expertise in ethics law and investigations. The mission of the OCE and its Board is to assist the House in upholding high standards of ethical conduct for its Members, officers, and staff and, in so doing, to serve the American people. Governed by an eight-person Board of Directors, Members of the OCE Board are private citizens and cannot serve as members of Congress or work for the federal government.
History of the OCE
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. The OCE’s 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 the 111th, 112th, 113th and 114th Congresses. The OCE has reviewed a wide variety of allegations relating to earmarks, travel, financial disclosure, and legal expense funds among other topics. The OCE publishes a statistical summary of the Board’s actions on a quarterly basis. The reports and findings of the Board are made public according to the OCE’s authorizing resolution. These referrals are available at the reports page. The OCE’s investigations are done in two phases. A chart outlines this process and our Citizen’s Guide shows how the OCE fits into the structure of government ethics enforcement. Visit our FAQs for more details on how the OCE operates.
The OCE held a public hearing at its first meeting on January 23, 2009 and has since met several times to address changes to its rules and received public comment regarding those proposals, listed below.
February 27, 2009: OCE Public Hearing
January 30, 2009: Letter from The Campaign Legal Center
January 23, 2009: OCE Public Hearing
January 23, 2009: Letter from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington
January 23, 2009: Letter from Representative Michael E. Capuano
January 21, 2009: Letter from Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission