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Watchdog Groups Wish New Lawmaker Ethics Proposal Was Stronger

Noah Coffey

Citizens advocacy groups say a move made by a House committee Tuesday is a step forward in bolstering the chamber’s code of ethics.

The proposed code prohibits representatives from advocating in matters where they have a direct personal or financial interest. That includes anything that could affect the income of the member, their close relatives or any ownership interest they hold in a partnership, business or corporation.

Common Cause Policy Director Julia Vaughn says the new code is a step in the right direction, but doesn’t go far enough.

“When one has a financial interest in the outcome, if one has recused oneself from votes and committee and on the floor then you should probably just keep your mouth shut both in caucus and on the floor,” Vaughn says.

Currently, the law states members “should” avoid public or private advocacy in conflicts of interest.  Vaughn says her organization would prefer an outright ban on the practice. 

The proposed changes now move to the House Rules Committee.

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