Boren criticizes ethics office over Lucas investigation
BY JIM MYERS World Washington Bureau
Friday, September 10, 2010
9/10/10 at 6:03 AM
WASHINGTON - After an ethics case against U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., was recommended for dismissal, U.S. Rep. Dan Boren said Thursday that the Office of Congressional Ethics might need to be eliminated for pursuing unmerited investigations.
"There are multiple members who have been unfairly accused of wrongdoing, that have been publicly accused of wrongdoing, that have done nothing wrong," Boren said.
Boren, a Democrat, was the only member of the Oklahoma delegation to vote in 2008 to create the office, which was designed to bring greater accountability and transparency to the ethics process in the House.
It allows for the first time an independent review of alleged ethics violations by people who are not members of Congress.
"The OCE, I believe, has not improved the ethics process," Boren said. "In fact, they have embarked on some investigations without merit and have done so publicly in a way that has hurt members who have done nothing wrong."
After November's elections, the House should look at how it can restructure the ethics office or eliminate it, he said.
"Frank Lucas is a man of unquestioned character and integrity," Boren said. "I did not agree with OCE's action."
Lucas' office said last week that the lawmaker was informed that the Office of Congressional Ethics' board voted unanimously not to further pursue allegations against him.
News reports say the allegations involved the timing of a fundraiser and action on a financial reform bill.
Lucas has declined to comment. His office initially even refused Thursday to say how he voted on creating the ethics office, which he opposed.
Lucas was believed to be one of eight House members to be caught up in the inquiry. The ethics office recommended further investigation of three of them, news reports say.
Like Boren, Lucas' fellow Oklahoma Republicans did not agree with the actions of the ethics office.
Rep. John Sullivan said: "I think this outside ethics panel is a really big mistake. It is being used for kind of a political tool. In politics, our reputation is all we've got."
He said the House should look at "getting rid of it."
Rep. Tom Cole described the process that Lucas went through as unfair and unnecessary. He said such concerns were why he voted against creating the ethics office.
"Anyone who knows Frank knows that his integrity is beyond reproach," Cole said. "And while the OCE ultimately came to that conclusion as well, it should have never been an issue."
If given a chance, Cole said, he would vote to eliminate the ethics office and restore the authority of the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct.
Rep. Mary Fallin also voted against creating the ethics office.
Original Print Headline: Boren takes on ethics office after colleague cleared
Jim Myers (202) 484-1424
U.S. Rep. Dan Boren: "The (Office of Congressional Ethics), I believe, has not improved the ethics process. In fact, they have embarked on some investigations without merit and have done so publicly in a way that has hurt members who have done nothing wrong."