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The Committee on Ethics, often known simply as the Ethics Committee, is one of the committees of the United States House of Representatives. Prior to the 112th Congress it was known as the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct.
The United States House of Representatives is the lower house of the United States Congress, the Senate being the upper house. Together they compose the national legislature of the United States.
The House Ethics Committee has often received criticism.In response to criticism, the House created the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), an independent non-partisan entity established to monitor ethical conduct in the House.
The Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), established by the U.S. House of Representatives in March 2008, is a nonpartisan, independent entity charged with reviewing allegations of misconduct against members of the House of Representatives and their staff and, when appropriate, referring matters to the United States House Committee on Ethics.
The committee has an equal number of members from each party, unlike the rest of the committees, which are constituted with the majority of members and the committee chair coming from the party that controls the House. This even split has limited its power by giving either political party an effective veto over the actions of the committee. Members may not serve more than three terms on the committee, unless they serve as chair in their fourth term.
A political party is an organized group of people who have the same ideology, or who otherwise have the same political positions, and who field candidates for elections, in an attempt to get them elected and thereby implement the party's agenda.
A veto is the power to unilaterally stop an official action, especially the enactment of legislation. A veto can be absolute, as for instance in the United Nations Security Council, whose permanent members can block any resolution, or it can be limited, as in the legislative process of the United States, where a two-thirds vote in both the House and Senate will override a Presidential veto of legislation. A veto may give power only to stop changes, like the US legislative veto, or to also adopt them, like the legislative veto of the Indian President, which allows him to propose amendments to bills returned to the Parliament for reconsideration.
Sources: H.Res. 31 (Chair), H.Res. 32 (Ranking Member), H.Res. 113 (R), H.Res. 125 (D), H.Res. 148 (D)
Sources: H.Res. 6 (R), H.Res. 56, H.Res. 127 (D), H.Res. 685 (R)
Sources: H.Res. 6 (R), H.Res. 30, H.Res. 71 (D)
Sources: H.Res. 6 (R), H.Res. 7, H.Res. 42 (D)
It has many functions, but they all revolve around the standards of ethical conduct for members of the House. Under this authority, it:
The committee has a long history; the first matter it handled was on January 30, 1798, when Rep. Matthew Lyon of Vermont was accused of "gross indecency" after he spat on Rep. Roger Griswold of Connecticut after an exchange of insults (a week later, another complaint was filed against Lyon, this time for "gross indecency of language in his defense before this House"). Since the early days of the House, the Committee's reports have gotten much more technical, delving into the details of campaign finance and other financial arcana.
As a result of the criminal investigation of Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX), and lobbyist Jack Abramoff, there was pressure on the Ethics Committee to take action to admonish members involved in their activities. However, action was slow and the responsibility for impeding its progress was attributed to then-Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Dennis Hastert. When the Committee did admonish Tom DeLay for a third time, Hastert removed three Republicans from the panel, including chairman Joel Hefley, (R-CO). Hastert had his own personal ethical problems, such as when he failed to take action when warned about Mark Foley's sexual relationships with young congressional pages.The new chairman, Doc Hastings (R-WA), acted to rein in the panel, leading to a Democratic boycott and preventing a quorum. The stalemate lasted three months until Hastings backed down. By then the committee was left broken and unable to take action in the DeLay case, the full Jack Abramoff Indian lobbying scandal, or other cases such as that of ranking Ethics Committee Democrat Jim McDermott (D-WA), who revealed violations by Newt Gingrich without authorization to the press.
On November 16, 2010, Charles Rangel (D-NY) was found guilty on 11 of the 12 charges against him by the adjudicatory subcommittee of the House Ethics Committee. They included solicitation of funds and donations for the non-profit Rangel Center from those with business before the Ways and Means Committee and the improper use of Congressional letterhead and other House resources in those solicitations; for submitting incomplete and inaccurate financial disclosures, for using an apartment as an office despite having Congressional dealings with its landlord and for failing to pay taxes on a Dominican villa.
On March 29, 2010, the OCE released a report dated January 28, 2010, that concluded Rep. Nathan Deal (R-GA) appeared to have improperly used his office staff to pressure Georgia officials to continue the exclusive, no-bid state vehicle inspection program that generated hundreds of thousands of dollars a year for his family’s auto salvage business, Gainesville Salvage & Disposal.The Ethics Committee never reported or commented on any investigation of Deal. On March 1, 2010, Deal resigned his seat saying he was concentrating on a run for governor, which excluded him from the Office of Congressional Ethics' jurisdiction. Besides Deal, another Georgia Republican, Rep. Paul Broun, accused of paying a consultant with taxpayer funds in his 2014 bid for a U.S. Senate race, avoided answering to charges by losing that primary and leaving office.
The OCE discovered, via a difficult investigation, that a 2013 trip nine members took to Azerbaijan was paid for by funds laundered for the purpose from the Azerbaijani government. The Ethics committee had asked the OCE to drop the case, only approving release of a summary finding in 2015, deeming the full report “not appropriate for release because the referral followed the OCE Board’s decision not to cease its investigations.”.
On January 2, 2017, one day before the 115th United States Congress was scheduled to convene for its first session, the House Republican majority voted 119–74 to effectively place the OCE under direct control of the House Ethics Committee, making any subsequent reviews of possible violations of criminal law by Congressional members dependent upon approval following referral to the Ethics Committee itself, or to federal law enforcement agencies. The new rules would have prevented the OCE from independently releasing public statements on pending or completed investigations.House Judiciary Committee chair Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) defended the action on the rules amendment saying it "builds upon and strengthens the existing Office of Congressional Ethics by maintaining its primary area of focus of accepting and reviewing complaints from the public and referring them, if appropriate, to the Committee on Ethics." House Republicans reversed their plan to gut the OCE less than 24 hours after the initial vote, under bipartisan pressure from Representatives, their constituents and the President-elect, Donald Trump. In addition to negative Trump tweets, criticism was widespread including from Judicial Watch, the Project on Government Oversight, former Representative Bob Ney (R-OH), who was convicted of receiving bribes, and Abramoff, the lobbyist who provided such bribes.
John Taylor Doolittle, is an attorney and an American politician. Elected to Congress in 1990, he served as a Republican member of the United States House of Representatives from 1991 to 2009, representing California's 4th congressional district. In the 109th Congress, he held a leadership role as the Deputy Whip for the Republican party in the House. He was succeeded in the House of Representatives by Tom McClintock. Before being elected to Congress, he had served in the California State Senate from 1984 to 1991.
Charles Bernard Rangel is an American politician who was a U.S. Representative for districts in New York from 1971 to 2017. A member of the Democratic Party, he was the second-longest serving incumbent member of the House of Representatives at the time of his retirement, serving continuously since 1971. As its most senior member, he was also the Dean of New York's congressional delegation. Rangel was the first African-American Chair of the influential House Ways and Means Committee. He is also a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Mark Adam Foley is a former member of the United States House of Representatives. He served from 1995 until 2006, representing the 16th District of Florida as a member of the Republican Party, before resigning due to revelations that he had sent sexually explicit messages to teenaged boys who had served as congressional pages.
Richard Norman "Doc" Hastings is an American politician and member of the Republican Party who served as the U.S. Representative for Washington's 4th congressional district from 1995 until his retirement in 2015. The district includes much of central Washington including the Tri-Cities, Yakima, and Moses Lake. The most conservative Republican in Washington's Congressional delegation, he chaired the House Committee on Ethics from 2005 to 2007 and chaired the House Committee on Natural Resources from 2011 to his leaving office.
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Robert William Goodlatte is an American politician and attorney. He served in the United States House of Representatives representing Virginia's 6th congressional district for 13 terms. He was also the Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over legislation affecting the federal courts, administrative agencies, and federal law enforcement entities. A Republican, Goodlatte's district covered Roanoke and also included Lynchburg, Harrisonburg, and Staunton.
Robert William Ney is an American politician from the U.S. state of Ohio. In 2007, he was convicted on charges of corruption and sentenced to 30 months in jail. A Republican, Ney represented Ohio's 18th congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 until November 3, 2006, when he resigned. Ney's resignation took place after he pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy and making false statements in relation to the Jack Abramoff Indian lobbying scandal. Before he pleaded guilty, Ney was identified in the guilty pleas of Jack Abramoff, former Tom DeLay deputy chief of staff Tony Rudy, former DeLay press secretary Michael Scanlon and former Ney chief of staff Neil Volz for receiving lavish gifts in exchange for political favors.
Rodney Procter Frelinghuysen is an American politician who served as the U.S. Representative for New Jersey's 11th congressional district from 1995 to 2019. The district includes most of Morris County, an affluent suburban county west of New York City. It also includes some of the wealthier areas near Newark and Paterson, and is the 10th richest congressional district in the nation in terms of median income. A member of the Republican Party, Frelinghuysen served as Chair of the House Appropriations Committee from 2017 to 2019. Frelinghuysen announced on January 29, 2018, that he would not seek re-election that year.
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The Jack Abramoff Indian lobbying scandal was a United States political scandal exposed in 2005; it related to fraud perpetrated by political lobbyists Jack Abramoff, Ralph E. Reed, Jr., Grover Norquist and Michael Scanlon on Native American tribes who were seeking to develop casino gambling on their reservations. The lobbyists charged the tribes an estimated $85 million in fees. Abramoff and Scanlon grossly overbilled their clients, secretly splitting the multi-million dollar profits. In one case, they secretly orchestrated lobbying against their own clients in order to force them to pay for lobbying services.
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The Mark Foley scandal, which broke in late September 2006, centers on soliciting e-mails and sexually suggestive instant messages sent by Mark Foley, a Republican Congressman from Florida, to teenaged boys who had formerly served as congressional pages. Investigation was closed by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) on September 19, 2008 citing insufficient evidence to pursue criminal charges as both "Congress and Mr. Foley denied us access to critical data", said FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey. The scandal grew to encompass the response of Republican congressional leaders to previous complaints about Foley's contacts with the pages and inconsistencies in the leaders' public statements. There were also allegations that a second Republican Congressman, Jim Kolbe, had improper conduct with at least two youths, a 16-year-old page and a recently graduated page.
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