Frequently Asked Questions
- Contacting the Ethics Committee - FAQs
Q: Should I ask for Democratic or Republican counsel when I call the Ethics Committee for guidance?
A: No. The Ethics Committee staff are all non-partisan.
Q: Is my request for assistance confidential?
A: Yes.return to top
- Investigations - FAQs
Q: What are the stages of an investigation?
A: Whenever the Committee receives a complaint, allegation, or information from virtually any source suggesting that a Senator or staffer may have violated rules within the Committee’s jurisdiction, the Committee will initiate a preliminary inquiry. Please see the Rules of Procedure for the Select Committee on Ethics for additional guidance.
At the end of the preliminary inquiry, the Committee will determine whether there is substantial credible evidence which provides substantial cause for the Committee to conclude that a violation has occurred.
If the Committee determines that there is not such evidence, the matter is dismissed. If the matter originated from a complaint, the Committee will provide notice of the dismissal to the complainant and to the subject of the complaint.
If the Committee determines that there is substantial credible evidence of a violation, but the violation is more serious, the Committee may issue either a public or private letter of admonition. If the violation is more serious, the Committee will initiate an adjudicatory review. Upon the conclusion of an adjudicatory review, the Committee can either issue a public letter of admonition or recommend that the Senate take disciplinary action, including expulsion, censure, or payment of restitution by a Member.
Q: How long does it take to complete an ethics investigation?
A: The Committee often receives inquiries about how long a particular investigation will last. Unfortunately, a specific time period cannot be provided. Generally, the pace of each case is determined by the nature of the allegations, the number of interviews that need to be completed, and whether there may be a parallel criminal investigation.return to top
- Jurisdiction - FAQs
Q: My Senator is not returning my phone calls. Is this a violation of the Senate ethics rules?
A: Senators have broad discretion on how and whether to help their constituents. Absent a violation of the Code of Conduct, this matter would be outside the Committee’s jurisdiction.
Q: The judge in my court case was unethical. Can I file a complaint with the Senate Ethics Committee?
A: No. The jurisdiction of the Committee only extends to Members, officers, and employees of the United States Senate.return to top
- Outside Organizations - FAQs
Q: My organization is sponsoring an event (reception, conference, charitable fundraiser, etc.) and we plan to invite Senate Members and employees. Do we need a letter from the Ethics Committee approving our event?
A: No. Committee preapproval is not required to invite Senate personnel. However, Committee staff are available to provide guidance to outside entities or individuals regarding their particular event. For additional guidance, please refer to the Gifts section on the Committee’s website or call the Committee.
Q: My organization would like to invite Senators and staff to come tour our facility. We plan to pay for Senate invitees’ transportation and lodging. What are we required to do to get approval?
A: Senate rules require that in order to accept privately-sponsored travel, each Senate traveler must receive prior written approval from the Senate Ethics Committee. A complete travel package must be submitted by each Senate invitee at least 30 days prior to the trip. Trip sponsors should provide each Senate invitee with the following materials:
- An invitation.
- A signed and completed Private Sponsor Travel Certification Form with any attachments (i.e., Senate invitee list and hour-by-hour itinerary).
For additional guidance, please refer to the Privately Sponsored Travel Regulations and Guidelines located on the Committee’s website.
Q: Am I required to register under the Lobbying Disclosure Act?
A: The Committee does not provide guidance on whether individuals are required to register under the Lobbying Disclosure Act. Questions regarding the requirements under the Lobbying Disclosure Act should be directed to the Secretary of the Senate.return to top