CFI supports ethics and integrity initiative in 111th Congress

January 15, 2009

The Center for Inquiry strongly advocates integrity in government, so we were happy to cooperate with coalition partners in supporting an initiative in the 111th Congress to tighten and strengthen legislation to prevent political and private interference in government. Here it is.

January 12, 2009

Senators and Representatives,

U.S. Congress

Washington DC.

Dear Member of Congress:

The Center for Inquiry joins with Public Citizen, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Project on Government Oversight, OMB Watch, and the Center for Science in the Public Interest to urge you to undertake a transparency and accountability initiative in the 111 th Congress.

The Center for Inquiry is a think tank and grassroots organization devoted to ensuring that public policy is based on reason and scientific thinking and that no private interests interfere with the application of scientific evidence to legislation. We worked with the House Government Oversight and Reform Committee staff to help draft amendments to the Federal Advisory Committees Act (FACA) in 2007.

Because of our interest in federal advisory committees, we support the strengthening of the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) so that it becomes the central authority for ethical rules and for ensuring that no conflicts of interest arise on advisory committees. The work of all advisory committees should be exhaustively recorded and available to the public on the OGE website.   The members of advisory committee should be carefully chosen as experts in the field, and should not have to pass political litmus tests in order to serve. In particular, OGE should examine experts’ financial ties to special interests for at least two years before serving as advisory committee members.

We also support rules that would close the revolving door between federal agencies and the businesses from which they came or return to after federal service.   No official at a federal agency should participate in decisions benefiting a former employer for at least two years. Reciprocally, federal officials who leave public services must not lobby their former agency on behalf of a private employer for at least two years. Senior officials in federal agencies should adhere to the same rules restricting gifts as those that apply to members of Congress.

These legislative reforms will have minimal cost but major impact on government expenditures. They will ensure that federal dollars are spent in the in the interests of the public, not for private gain. We need to restore the integrity of our government and remove from it the taint of political interference in the nation’s business