Ethics office not focus of GOP transition, leader says

House Republicans are "not focused" on what to do with the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) created by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the leader of the GOP's transition efforts said Monday.

Asked on ABC's "Top Line" webcastif the GOP plans to do away with the OCE next year, Rep. Greg Walden (Ore.), who was tapped to help lead the House GOP into the majority next year, said "We're not working on that issue at all."

Walden's comments came on the same day Rep. Charles Rangel's (D-N.Y.) congressional ethics trial began. Rangel's case was reviewed by the OCE, but he has objected to the length of the two-year investigation, saying it cost him the ability to afford legal representation at trial. 

Many expect House Republicans to shut down the OCE, an independent group that reviews ethics complaints and refers them to the House ethics committee, since many members have complained about its activities.

The members say that the two-year-old OCE has been overzealous in pursuing ethics complaints and that it has been less than transparent. Congressional Black Caucus members, which include Rangel, have also criticized the OCE for what they say have been a litany of media leaks about investigations into some of their members. 

But reform groups support the office as an effective arbiter of ethics complaints against lawmakers.

Walden has previously said that the conference is open to contracting the office. On Monday, he said that ethics issues are not within the scope of his job.

"You know our focus on the transition is looking at other things that are much more important," he said. "And that is how the House operates, how to open it up. We're not focused in on the ethics side of things at all."

This post was updated at 12:54 p.m.