The office of Majority Whip John Brademas released this issue paper, titled “Code of Financial Ethics and Other House Reforms,” on April 4, 1977. As Whip, Brademas was responsible for managing the legislative priorities of the Democratic Party during the 95th Congress (1977–1979), which included a number of ethics reforms detailed in this issue paper. Despite President Richard M. Nixon’s resignation in 1974, the Watergate scandal cast a long shadow over all branches of government and eroded people’s trust in public officials. In an effort to make government more transparent, the issue paper detailed new House rules that covered financial disclosure requirements, restrictions on the acceptance of gifts, and directives on unofficial office accounts, official mail privileges, and outside earned income. The rules also addressed procedural changes intended to increase accountability and to spur election reform. Because the Whip’s issue paper covered areas that fell under the jurisdiction of the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, it was included in its records.
Before the committee was established in 1967, ethics standards in the House were self-policed and handled on an ad hoc basis. During testimony in support of a resolution to establish a permanent committee, Representative Charles Bennett stated, “There is need for a vehicle in the House to achieve and maintain the highest possible standards by statute and enforcement thereof. This can only be done after thorough study by a committee whose primary interests are in the field of ethics.” Named the Committee on Ethics starting in 2012, the membership was evenly split between the parties and the committee staff were nonpartisan. The committee’s jurisdiction included investigating allegations of misconduct, making recommendations for enforcing standards of conduct and reporting violations of the law to authorities, and issuing advisory opinions on ethics issues to Members, officers, and staff.