Congress spent almost as much to study monkeys as it spent on its own ethics office

<p>Congress approved $1 million to study marmosets running on treadmills. Image by Jacob Bøtter / Flickr. </p>

Congress approved $1 million to study marmosets running on treadmills. Image by Jacob Bøtter / Flickr.

Republicans and Democrats agree on very little, but you’ll hear both parties decry government waste, fraud and abuse on the campaign trail.

So where did Congress first look to save money? Their own Office of Congressional Ethics that holds members, officers and their staff accountable to taxpayers.

Even worse, Congress approved spending nearly as much to study monkeys on treadmills ($1 million) and the effect of beer koozies on a hot day ($1.3 million)—really—as they did on their own watchdog who makes sure our elected officials are held to the same common-sense rules as voters who elected them.

Perhaps this is why Congress’ job approval hasn’t risen above 20 percent in nearly four years.

There are better ways to reduce the deficit while making progress on accountability and transparency in Congress and keeping a cop on the beat.

Read our full letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan below.  


We are appalled to learn today that Representative Steve Pearce (R-NM) wants to hamstring the independent, nonpartisan watchdog that investigates and holds members of Congress, officers and their staff accountable.

We strongly urge you to oppose the amendment that would slash the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) budget by 12 percent. In addition, you still need to name a replacement to former co-chair Porter Goss (R-FL), who stepped down more than a year ago in April 2015. A bipartisan coalition of ethics groups has continued to call on you to empower the OCE, the only major reform to the House ethics process in a generation.

While his amendment was proposed under the veil of deficit reduction, it would only serve to undermine Americans’ faith in our system of government. In your own words, “There is a better way,” to reduce the deficit, like recovering the billions of wasted taxpayer dollars from over-billing by private private medicare advantage plans, as found by the Government Accountability Office.

Now is not the time to undo the progress Congress has made in making itself more accountable and transparent. Congressional job approval remains abysmally low at 13 percent and 75 percent of Americans believe corruption is widespread throughout our government. Maintaining the sustainability of the OCE would publicly signal Congress’ commitment to ethics.

The Office of Congressional Ethics was founded in 2008, and during its eight years has compiled an admirable record of conducting impartial, professional investigations. The OCE’s mission is to “assist the U.S. House in upholding high ethical standards with an eye toward increasing transparency and providing information to the public.” During its short history, the office has investigated both Republicans and Democrats fairly and with integrity.

Our democracy cannot function unless everyone plays by the same rules and abides by the same laws. This isn’t a partisan issue.