Misusing taxpayer money? Nope.
Luxuriating on special interest-funded junkets? Sorry.
Accepting ethically questionable gifts? Close, but no tobacco industry-bestowed cigar.
Since early 2009, nearly half of the Office of Congressional Ethics' investigations into U.S. House members and staff involve election activity such as potential campaign finance violations, according to a new report the independent office published this week.
The Office of Congressional Ethics — the U.S. House's independent, internal watchdog — has been much less likely to investigate members' and their staff's official activities.
Shenanigans involving travel (17 percent), outside employment and income (11 percent), gifts (8 percent), official allowances (6 percent), financial disclosure (3 percent) and "other" (9 percent) account for the rest of the office's 137 investigations since early 2009, the report shows.
The focus on election activity comes at a time when the frequently gridlocked Federal Election Commission, the government agency tasked with policing campaign matters, is slapping political committees with fewer and fewer penalties.
Congress grants the Office of Congressional Ethics the jurisdiction to investigate any alleged violation of a "law, rule, regulation or other standard of conduct."
But it can't dole out penalties.
Instead, it refers the results of some investigations to the House Committee on Ethics, which in turn may conduct its own investigations, and in rare cases, vote to recommend punishments to the full U.S. House.
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Copyright 2014 The Center for Public Integrity. This story was published by The Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit, nonpartisan investigative news organization in Washington, D.C.