Mar 27, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Charted: Congressional Ethics Office blasted with citizen calls

Data: Office of Congressional Ethics; Note: Data only includes first half of the 118th Congress; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: Office of Congressional Ethics; Note: Data only includes first half of the 118th Congress; Chart: Axios Visuals

Half-way through the 118th Congress, nearly 13,000 private citizens contacted the Congressional Ethics Office mostly to complain about perceived unethical behavior by lawmakers, according to the office's data.

Why it matters: The 118th Congress is on track for a record number of calls from concerned citizens at a time of high-profile investigations and big, controversial personalities from Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) to expelled Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.)

  • "Where there is a lot of media attention on ethics issues — such as the George Santos scandal — you'll get tons and tons of outreach to the OCE to take action," Kedric Payne, a former deputy chief counsel of the Office of Congressional Ethics, told Axios.
  • There have also been more effective campaigns by groups to encourage people to reach out to the office over ethical concerns.

Driving the news: Rep. Troy Nehls (R-Texas) is the latest lawmaker to be faced with an investigation by the House Ethics Committee, according to a Tuesday announcement.

  • The committee was forwarded the case by the Office of Congressional Ethics late last year.
  • In a statement, Nehls indicated the investigation is related to campaign finance.

Between the lines: Contacts to the Office of Congressional Ethics from the public do not necessarily translate to more action by the office or the committee, as people often complain about issues that are not necessarily unethical.

  • The office has had just 15 preliminary reviews launched since the start of 2023.
  • And sometimes people will contact the office to get more general information about the process.
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