United States House Committee on Ethics

Last updated
House Ethics Committee
Standing committee
Seal of the United States House of Representatives.svg
United States House of Representatives
115th Congress
Chair Ted Deutch (D)
Since January 5, 2019 (2019-01-05)
Ranking member Kenny Marchant (R)
Since January 5, 2019 (2019-01-05)
Political partiesMajority (5)
Minority (5)
Purpose"to administer travel, gift, financial disclosure, outside income, and other regulations; advise members and staff; issue advisory opinions and investigate potential ethics violations"
Policy areas Ethics
Senate counterpart United States Senate Select Committee on Ethics

    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. [1]


    The House Ethics Committee has often received criticism. [2] [3] [4] [5] 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 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.

    116th Congress


    Sources: H.Res. 31 (Chair), H.Res. 32 (Ranking Member), H.Res. 113 (R), H.Res. 125 (D), H.Res. 148 (D)

    Past committee rosters

    115th Congress


    Sources: H.Res. 6 (R), H.Res. 56, H.Res. 127 (D), H.Res. 685 (R)

    114th Congress


    Sources: H.Res. 6 (R), H.Res. 30, H.Res. 71 (D)

    113th Congress


    Sources: H.Res. 6 (R), H.Res. 7, H.Res. 42 (D)

    112th Congress




    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. [6] 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. [7] [8] [9]

    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. [10] [11] [12]

    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. [13] The Ethics Committee never reported or commented on any investigation of Deal. [14] 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. [15] [16] 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. [17] [18]

    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.” [19]

    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. [20] [21] 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." [22] 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. [23] 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. [24]

    See also

    Related Research Articles

    John Doolittle American politician

    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 Rangel former congressman from Harlem, New York

    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 Foley Florida politician

    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.

    Doc Hastings American politician

    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.

    Bob Goodlatte American politician

    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.

    Bob Ney Ohio politician

    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 Frelinghuysen American politician

    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.

    Pete Sessions American politician

    Peter Anderson Sessions is an American politician from Texas who served in the U.S. House of Representatives for 11 terms. He is a member of the Republican Party. He served as the chairman of the House Rules Committee from 2013 to 2019 and is a former chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. He was defeated for re-election by Democrat Colin Allred in the November 2018 election. On October 3, 2019, Sessions announced that he was running for Texas's 17th congressional district in the 2020 election.

    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.

    The monetary influence of Jack Abramoff ran deep in Washington, as Jack Abramoff spent millions of dollars to influence and entertain both Republican and Democratic politicians. Abramoff had a reputation for largesse considered exceptional even by Washington standards. In addition to offering many Republican members of Congress expensive free meals at his restaurant, Signatures, Abramoff maintained four skyboxes at major sports arenas for political entertaining at a cost of over $1 million a year. Abramoff hosted many fundraisers at these skyboxes including events for Republican politicians publicly opposed to gambling, such as John Doolittle. Abramoff gave over $260,000 in personal contributions to Republican candidates, politicians, and organizations, and funded numerous trips for politicians and staffers and gave none to Democrats.

    Vern Buchanan American politician

    Vernon Gale Buchanan is a member of the United States House of Representatives. He has represented Florida's 16th congressional district since 2007. He is a member of the Republican Party. Buchanan is the only member from Florida on the House Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over tax policy, international trade, health care, and Social Security. Prior to serving in Congress, Buchanan was in business for over 30 years and was the chairman of both the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce and the Florida Chamber of Commerce. He served as member of the board and the executive committee of the United States Chamber of Commerce.

    Aaron Schock American politician

    Aaron Jon Schock is a former American politician who was Republican U.S. Representative for Illinois's 18th congressional district from 2009 until 2015. The district is based in Peoria and includes part of Springfield. He was the first member of the U.S. Congress born in the 1980s; when he took his seat in 2009 he was the youngest member of Congress. Previously, Schock had served two terms in the Illinois House of Representatives, also as its youngest member.

    Mark Foley scandal political scandal

    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.

    Theodore J. Van Der Meid, was Counsel/Director of Floor Operations, Office of the Speaker, serving Speaker Dennis Hastert in the United States Congress. He has joined the law firm of McKenna Long & Aldridge, to handle issues relating to ethics, Congressional investigations and compliance.

    2008 Illinoiss 14th congressional district special election

    After the resignation of Republican Party United States Congressman Dennis Hastert from his Illinois's 14th congressional district seat in the United States House of Representatives on November 26, 2007, a special election was held to fill the vacancy for the remainder of the 110th United States Congress.

    Expulsion is the most serious form of disciplinary action that can be taken against a Member of Congress. The United States Constitution provides that "Each House [of Congress] may determine the Rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two-thirds, expel a member." The processes for expulsion differ somewhat between the House of Representatives and the Senate.

    John Carter (Texas politician) U.S. Representative for Texass 31st congressional district

    John Rice Carter is the U.S. Representative serving Texas's 31st congressional district since 2003. He is a Republican. The district includes the northern suburbs of Austin, as well as Fort Hood.

    Numerous federal officials in the United States have been threatened with impeachment and removal from office. Despite numerous impeachment investigations and votes to impeach a number of presidents by the House of Representatives, only three presidents in U.S. history have been impeached by the House: Presidents Andrew Johnson, Bill Clinton, and Donald Trump. Neither Andrew Johnson nor Bill Clinton were convicted in the Senate and were not removed from office. Donald Trump is awaiting trial by the Senate.

    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.


    1. Hooper, Molly K. (December 22, 2010). "New GOP rules will make it tougher for House to raise debt ceiling". The Hill. Retrieved 2011-01-06.
    2. Attkisson, Sharyl (October 25, 2010). "A Double Standard for House Ethics?". CBS News.
    3. Parker, Ashley (December 7, 2010). "Waters Calls for Investigation of House Ethics Committee". The New York Times.
    4. Pershing, Ben (December 7, 2010). "Despite critics, Hill ethics office likely to survive". The Washington Post.
    5. Wang, Marian (March 11, 2010). "Investigating the Investigators: How the House Ethics Committee Works". ProPublica. Retrieved February 22, 2012.
    6. Norm Ornstein, This Isn't Dennis Hastert's First Scandal, The Atlantic (June 3, 2015).
    7. Mann, Thomas E.; Ornstein, Norman J. (2006). The Broken Branch. pp. 190–191.
    8. Bookman, Jay (August 2, 2010). "Rangel, Waters ethics cases represent laudable progress". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved February 22, 2012.
    9. "Tom DeLay's Transgressions: A Pattern of Misbehavior". Common Cause. Retrieved February 22, 2012.
    10. Newman, Andy (November 16, 2010). "Rangel's Ethics Violations". The New York Times.
    11. de Vogue, Ariane (November 16, 2010). "Rep. Charles Rangel Convicted of Violating House Ethics Rules". ABC News.
    12. Kocieniewski, David (November 16, 2010). "Rangel Found Guilty By Ethics Panel". The New York Times. p. A24.
    13. March 29, 2010, by Eric Lipton (March 29, 2010). "Ethics Report Faults Ex-Congressman". The New York Times. Retrieved January 5, 2017.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
    14. OCE (March 26, 2010). "Review No. 09-1022" (PDF).
    15. Justin Elliott (March 1, 2010). "Did GOP Rep Resign To Squelch Ethics Probe?". Tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com. Retrieved January 5, 2017.
    16. Greg Bluestein (July 3, 2013). "Deal sells controversial salvage yard as he prepares for 2014 election". Atlanta Journal Constitution. Retrieved January 5, 2017.
    17. Embattled congressional ethics office previously probed Nathan Deal, Paul Broun, Atlanta Journal Constitution , Tamar Hallerman, January 4, 2017. Retrieved 5 January 2017.
    18. Rep. Broun leaves congress with ethics case hanging, Atlanta Journal Constitution , Bret Schrade, January 10, 2015. Retrieved 5 January 2017.
    19. House GOP’s Blueprint To Gut Ethics Office Looks Like It Was Copied From Azerbaijan Scandal, Huffington Post , Laura Barron-Lopez, January 4, 2016. Retrieved 5 January 2016.
    20. Lipton, Eric (2017-01-02). "With No Warning, House Republicans Vote to Gut Independent Ethics Office". The New York Times. ISSN   0362-4331 . Retrieved 2017-01-04.
    21. CNN, Deirdre Walsh and Daniella Diaz. "House GOP guts ethics panel". CNN. Retrieved 2017-01-04.
    22. Cassata, Donna. "House GOP votes to gut independent ethics office". Pilotonline.com. Retrieved 3 January 2017.
    23. "House Republicans Back Down on Bid to Gut Ethics Office". The New York Times . Washington, DC. January 3, 2016. Retrieved January 4, 2016.
    24. After Backlash, Including From Trump, House GOP Drops Weakening Of Ethics Office, National Public Radio , Susan Davis & Brian Naylor, January 3, 2016. Retrieved 4 January 2016.