If you’re a citizen, a voter, a constituent, you need an OCE. What is an OCE? It’s a solution and to understand why it’s a damn good solution, consider the sheer exasperation when members of Congress violate their oaths of office while you, by now a very angry constituent, watches from the sidelines. Sure you can write letters, call, fax, email, but none of those have the concreteness of a move that will lead to official action being taken.
And you want action to be taken. There needs to be accountability for malfeasance, consequences appropriate to the transgression.
The US Constitution acknowledges this need but while it vests Congress with broad authority to discipline its members, it wasn’t until 1967 that the forerunners to the Senate and House Ethics Committees were established. These provided the House and Senate with the infrastructure needed to set standards, determine disciplinary procedures, investigate allegations of illegal or unethical conduct, and recommend appropriate punishments.
Congressional authority to discipline Members is found in Article I, Section 5, clause 2 of the Constitution, which provides that “Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly Behaviour, and, with the Concurrence of two-thirds, expel a Member.” Through the years, disorderly behavior has been interpreted as improper conduct and included support of rebellion, disloyalty, corruption, and financial
wrongdoing. Only since the 1960s has each chamber systematically undertaken self-discipline related to conduct.
Since their inception, referrals to the two congressional committees always came from within their chambers of jurisdiction, but in 2008 that was all about to change in the House. Following the Tom DeLay (R-TX) scandals in 2005-06, the 2007 incoming Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, led the new Democratic majority’s effort to clean up what they referred to as the “culture of corruption” in DC officialdom.
From the Los Angeles Times, August 1, 2007:
“If there was one message that was abundantly clear based on the results of last year’s election, it was that the American people want us to end the culture of corruption that has enveloped the legislative process,” said Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. “We’ve heard that message loud and clear.”
Focus and Process
They began with sweeping legislation that tightened ethics regulations and imposed new rules on lawmakers and lobbyists but more was needed. In March 2008, they followed up with the creation of the Office of Congressional Ethics (yep, that’s the OCE), a nonpartisan, independent entity charged with reviewing allegations of misconduct against members of the House of Representatives and their staff. Unlike the House Ethics Committee, the OCE is an external review body that focuses exclusively on submissions from the public.
Its three-phase review process requires approval of the board at each step:
- Reasonable cause to believe allegations initiates the preliminary review. Duration: 30 days maximum.
- Probable cause to believe allegations progresses the case to further review. Duration: 45 days maximum plus 14-day extension if needed.
- Substantial cause to believe allegations results in the case being referred on to the House Ethics Committee.
Submitting an Allegation
The OCE has a page simply titled Make a Submission which is divided into a number of sections. The first section requires the standard contact details for the individual submitting the information.
The next section asks for information about the subject of the allegation. To make it more interesting, let’s use Rep Lauren Boebert as an example.
December 4, 2020, was when Rep-elect Boebert first announced she would be objecting to electors and since that will be mentioned in the next section, I included it here. I also wanted to make clear that her inappropriate conduct did not occur on only one day.
The next section is the Statement of Facts. This is where I describe the illegal and unethical conduct demonstrated by Boebert. I’ve also included the effects of her behaviour since that is relevant to the rules and laws she’s violated.
In full, this section reads:
On December 24, 2020 Rep-elect Boebert announced she’d object to the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory when Congress meets on January 6, 2021. She cited unsubstantiated claims of widespread election and voter fraud due to some states extending the deadline for mail-in ballots. This argument has been rejected by more than 60 courts for lack of evidence.
Yet Boebert persisted in repeating what amounted to conspiracy theories and outright lies after being sworn in and seated in 117th Congress. She was an active participant in speaking and posting the inflammatory speech which fuelled the insurgency on January 6.
On January 4, Rep Boebert stated in a digital ad, “I will carry my firearm in DC and in Congress” in violation of DC firearm carry laws. Was she armed on the day of the attack on the Capitol and if so, why did she feel she needed to be that day?
In Boebert’s speech to Congress made shortly before the rioters broke into the building, she stated, “Madam Speaker, I have constituents outside this building right now.” In light of events that took place that day, an investigation needs to ask who these constituents were. Was Rep Boebert communicating with them from inside the Capitol building? What did she mean by tweeting out “Today is 1776” before the Capitol was breached?
When she shared details of the lockdown and the Speaker’s movements, was she deliberately passing information to insurgents she knew? An investigation is needed to determine whether or not she was intentionally abetting the insurgents because what she did was inexcusable: her public posts provided violent insurgents with aid that put colleagues and staff in extreme danger.
Rep Boebert has never hidden her connections to several right wing militia groups, going so far as to ask militia members to provide security for her campaign events. In a June 14 tweet, Boebert proclaimed simply, “I am the militia.” indicating that she is a member of at least one right wing group.
Proud Boys, Oathkeepers and Threepercenters were identified in photographs of those present at the Capitol on January 6 and far-right imagery was prominent during the rioting. Does Boebert have connections with any of those who were at the scene?
If Boebert colluded with any of the insurgents, she is guilty of provided aid to the enemy, endangering colleagues and staff, and violating the oath she took January 3. In addition she claims to have broken DC firearms laws.
I want to emphasize that the above is a draft. What I did essentially was to jot down everything I could think of at the time. I also included sources for my claims because I wasn’t a firsthand witness. I’m not sure the OCE board want this but I go by the rule in form-filling that it’s often better to provide too much information rather than not enough.
If you want to use any of the information in this sample, you have my full permission to do so. The same applies to the next section.
Here is where you’re asked to provide the law, regulation or rule allegedly violated, if known. Refrain from adding how the subject violated them; that’s contained in the Statement of Facts and would be superfluous here.
The first and last in this list are the principal ones. The second one refers to the DC law regarding firearm carry which I tracked down in the District of Columbia Gun Laws at a Glance. The third was chosen from the Contents page in a PDF entitled Rules of the House of Representatives.
The last section is the Submission Affirmation – a click inside the box brings up a tick.
There you have it. So if you want to lodge a complaint about any of the 121 Republican House seditionists, go straight to Make a Submission and go for it! You’ll find a full list of those disreputable reps online here. Unfortunately, there’s no equivalent for OCE in the Senate. That needs to go on a To-Do list for future action.
Incidentally, OCE does not restrict complainants to their CD rep only so by all means, fill out as many forms as you wish. To help others, please include any tips or suggestions you have in the comments.
Let’s keep the OCE board busier than they’ve ever been! The aim is to get as many of these oath-breakers out of Congress as we can. Then we can build back Congress better!