Congressional ethics researchers increasingly face obstacles

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The Senate Ethics Committee received 144 offense charges in 2020, and all were dismissed.
Kedric Payne, senior ethics director at the Campaign Legal Center and former deputy chief counsel for the Congressional Ethics Office, said it was becoming too habitual for lawmakers to break ethical rules enacted by Congress. The campaign’s legal center has documented dozens of violations of the STOCK Act, which requires members to register stock transfers within 45 days of the transaction, but is often ignored.

California Democrat President Nancy Pelosi recently rejected the idea that members should be banned from trading in stocks. “We are a free market economy,” she told reporters. “They should be able to participate. “

Business Insider reported this month that 52 members of Congress broke the law this year. Penalties are often minimal, starting at just a $ 200 fine, and lawmakers have a 30-day grace period to comply after exceeding the deadline.

But Mr Payne argued that more needs to be done to ensure members of Congress behave ethically. Refusing to comply with STOCK law or cooperate with ethical investigations should not be accepted as routine, he said.

Still, he thinks participating in a congressional inquiry is possibly the smartest strategy for a lawmaker.

“The failure to comply with the STOCK law is the most egregious violation by several members of Congress that I have seen in recent history,” he said. “You need tougher rules that would restrict stock transactions that appear to be conflicts of interest – for example, trading in stocks in an industry that is within the purview of your committee.”

In 2019, Rep. David Schweikert, Republican of Arizona, refused to cooperate with a Congressional Ethics Office investigation into campaign finance violations and allegations he embezzled funds and lobbied on his congressional staff to do campaign work. He went on to become the first member reprimanded on the House floor since 2012.

“If you don’t cooperate, it’s more likely that the ECO will find serious reasons to believe that a violation has occurred,” Payne said.

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  • Congressional ethics researchers increasingly face obstacles
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