June 16, 2010 – Stefan Passantino is quoted in The Hill discussing the fallout often caused by investigations conducted by the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE). OCE’s current policies are similar to the criminal justice system, in that prosecutors and judges are required to keep their silence, but defendants and witnesses cannot be stopped from discussing the case with the media.
Mr. Passantino said that OCE “can’t protect members from outside people talking amongst themselves and to the press any more than the Justice Department can. The only thing that OCE can do to minimize the damage that can be done is to be more careful in the manner that they are seeking the information before they cast such a wide net all across town.”
From his experience representing clients on ethics issues, Passantino said it’s the policy of the Justice Department and the Senate and House ethics committees to request that outside groups, witnesses and members keep the investigation confidential. But other ethics experts disputed that assertion. Including a request to keep matters private could open a legal minefield and the leave the OCE vulnerable to charges of infringing on the rights to counsel and free speech.
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