Congressional Ethics Office Has Reviewed 9 Cases This Year

The identities of congressmen accused of wrongdoing and the sources of the complaints were not released.

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Oppressive heat and high humidity settle in over the Washington skyline as record-breaking temperatures and ozone-laden haze prompt air-quality alerts for the coming days in the nation's capital, Friday, July 23, 2010. Viewed from an overlook in Virginia above the Potomac River are, from left to right, the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, the Capitol, the Smithsonian Castle and the Library of Congress.

The Office of Congressional Ethics, established in 2008 to independently review and refer complaints against congressmen to the House Ethics Committee, has reviewed nine cases so far this year, according to its second quarter report, released Tuesday.

The identities of congressmen and congresswomen accused of wrongdoing and the sources of the complaints were not released. Seven cases were referred to the House Ethics Committee for review and two cases remain under review.

Members of the public eager to report a member of Congress can call the office or send an email to report suspected ethics violations, but many complaints originate from political rivals or nonprofit watchdogs.

Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, told U.S. News "the office is terrific."

[RELATED: CREW Reports Rep. Gohmert to OCE]

"It's the first place for outsiders to file" a complaint, she said, "and they don't just go into a black hole, which is the ethics committee."

Members of the office's board, chaired by former CIA director Porter Goss, a Republican, and former Colorado Rep. David Skaggs, a Democrat, weed out clearly frivolous complaints submitted by members of the public.

After reviewing cases, findings are submitted to the House Ethics Committee for further review and adjudication.

"I think CREW files more complaints than anyone else," Sloan said. She speculated that the office doesn't receive more complaints because "most people have busy lives" and "maybe people aren't catching members of Congress committing violations."

[READ: Are You an Ethical Employee?]

According to the website Legistorm, the office paid $228,512 in staff salaries during the first quarter of 2013, consistent with salary costs during the previous four quarters.

The office has its detractors, including Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, who in 2010 accused the office of being "the accuser, judge and jury" and attempted to restrict its operations along with 19 Congressional Black Caucus colleagues.

During 2011 and 2012 the office reviewed 32 cases and recommended that 13 be reviewed by the ethics committee, according to its fourth quarter 2012 report.

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