Trump Questions GOP Prioritizing Hill Ethics Watchdog Changes

President-elect Donald Trump questioned a move by House Republicans to restructure the Office of Congressional Ethics.

According to various reports, the House Republican Conference voted Monday, a holiday for many, to put the office under the oversight of the House Ethics Committee, renaming it the Office of Congressional Complaint Review.

"With all that Congress has to work on, do they really have to make the weakening of the Independent Ethics Watchdog, as unfair as it may be, their number one act and priority. Focus on tax reform, healthcare and so many other things of far greater importance," the President-elect tweeted Tuesday morning.

Asked if the President-elect was signaling the office should be strengthened, not weakened, a Trump transition spokesman said Tuesday that it was not a question of strengthening or weakening the office, but of Congress' priorities, those being the things the President-elect enumerated in his tweet.

Various groups slammed the GOP decision.

“There is no reason for this other than politicians removing the cop from the beat, so that they can sell out the American people with impunity,” said Represent Us director Josh Silver in a statement. “This is what you expect to see in a Soviet puppet state, not the United States of America. The House's gut job paves the way for the U.S. Congress to become one of the most corrupt government bodies in the world."

"Following an election in which disdain for corruption in Washington was a defining issue – for the Republican presidential candidate, no less – it is an outrage that House Republicans are planning to undermine one of the effective moves in recent years to reduce corruption," said Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen's Congress Watch division. "For House Republicans to hamstring this critical ethics watchdog behind closed doors in the 115th Congress rules package sends a powerful signal concerning the way they intend to govern."

"It is shameful that House Republicans are trying to destroy the Office of Congressional Ethics, the most significant ethics reform in Congress when it was established nearly a decade ago," said Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton.

Judicial Watch has a rooting interest in preserving the office since it pushed for its creation back in 2008.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.