Jack Abramoff, the former lobbyist whose sprawling corruption case helped prompt the creation of the Office of Congressional Ethics, on Tuesday bashed House Republicans’ short-lived attempt to weaken the office.
“While there seems to be little question that some of the procedures of the Office of Congressional Ethics can and probably have created collateral political problems for innocent Members of Congress, moving to diminish oversight is exactly the opposite of what Congress should be doing,” Abramoff told Politico before House Republicans pulled the measure.
House Republicans reversed course mid-day Tuesday and pulled the amendment that weakened the ethics office. The reversal came less than 24 hours after the House Republican Conference on Monday night voted to make changes to the Office of Congressional Ethics. The new rules would place the office under the House Ethic’s Committee oversight. The ethics office will no longer be able to act on anonymous tips and will not be able to make public statements or refer investigations to a prosecutor without the permission of the House Ethics Committee.
The late-night vote behind closed doors prompted swift backlash as Republicans tried to defend the move.
The changes were offered by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), who said Monday that his amendment “strengthens” the Office of Congressional Ethics and “improves upon due process rights for individuals under investigation, as well as witnesses called to testify.”
Abramoff dismissed Goodlatte’s defense.
“Congressman Goodlatte’s assertion that his amendment merely ‘improves upon due process for individuals under investigation’ is laughable,” the disgraced former lobbyist told Politico. “When did Congress last concern itself with due process for individuals under investigation that aren’t Members of Congress? Take it from me, they don’t!”
Abramoff said that Congress should follow Donald Trump’s lead.
“President-elect Trump has called for reform, and made specific proposals to reduce corruption in Washington,” he told Politico. “Congress should take his lead and offer real reform, not rip off the bandage of the OCE. I guess some people in Washington still don’t get what happened in November.”
Abramoff served several years in prison for corruption and tax charges stemming from an investigation into his influence-peddling scheme, which also led to the convictions of several others.