Congressional Accountability Project
1611 Connecticut Ave. NW Suite 3A
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 296-2787
fax (202) 833-2406

June 16, 1997

Honorable Robert Livingston, Co-Chairman
Honorable Benjamin Cardin, Co-Chairman
House Ethics Reform Task Force
U. S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

RE: House Ethics Reform Task Force report

Dear Representatives Livingston and Cardin:

The House Ethics Reform Task Force report will undermine efforts to identify, investigate, and punish corruption, influence-peddling and abuse of power in the House of Representatives. We strongly urge you to rework the Task Force report to strengthen -- not weaken -- the capacity of the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct ("Ethics Committee") to investigate House Members to determine whether they have violated the public trust.

The Ethics Committee is responsible for policing Members for violations of House Rules, federal law, and other applicable codes of conduct. It must investigate possible violations with diligence and punish wrongdoers, if the ethics process is to protect the public and our democracy.

During the 104th Congress, the House ethics process nearly collapsed. The Ethics Committee became moribund -- a shield for Members to hide behind, not a vigorous enforcer of House Rules. Among the Ethics Committee's problems were:

1. Damon Chappie, "Ethics Task Force Hires Lawyer Tied to Shuster Case." Roll Call, March 6, 1997. "Counsel Conflict." Roll Call, March 10, 1997.

2. Correspondence to House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct Chairwoman Nancy Johnson from Gary Ruskin, Congressional Accountability Project, September 5, 1996.

3. Testimony of Gary Ruskin, Congressional Accountability Project, before the House Ethics Reform Task Force, March 4, 1997.