The House ethics panel has a new series of training sessions coming up, but members of Congress won’t be attending. Instead, some of their new employees will be and learning perhaps for the first time just how much trouble they can get into if they don’t pay attention in class.
The panel, known officially as the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, has announced it plans seven ethics training seminars beginning on Aug. 25 and continuing through Dec. 28.
All new employees — whether working in a member’s office, for a committee, or in some capacity at the Capitol complex — must attend a “live” ethics session.
New staffers working back home in lawmakers’ district offices will be required to participate via an online hookup through the committee website. Capitol Hill interns who are being paid for at least 60 days of work are also expected to take the course.
Ethics training for lawmakers and their staffs is nothing new. But efforts to clearly define what is officially and legally acceptable behavior — and what is not — have intensified because of the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal and other incidents.
As a result, many of the ethics rules covering everything from the acceptance of gifts and travel to the ever-popular revolving door that leads from Capitol Hill to the Washington lobbying strip along K Street — and sometimes back again — have been rewritten in recent years. There’s a lot to learn.
Members don’t often admit it, but they look to their staffers as the first line of defense against possible ethics violations because they’re expected to flag any potential problems.
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