Oversight | Ethics Commissions and Committees



Commission Powers, Duties

All ethics commissions serve the same general purpose of encouraging ethics in government, but the powers and duties of individual commissions vary greatly. Some states grant commissions substantial authority and independence, while others serve in a more limited or advisory capacity. Commissions might also have different combinations of responsibilities. Commissions may have the power to issue subpoenas, judicially enforceable orders, make rules, conduct ethics trainings, or more. Powers may vary depending upon the issue and branch of government.

This chart shows statutory powers and duties of ethics commissions, such as the authority to develop forms and manuals, examine reports, monitor compliance, subpoena witnesses, issue advisory opinions and conduct trainings.




Most states provide external oversight of public officials through an ethics commission, usually with jurisdiction over legislators. Additionally, most legislatures have at least one ethics committee that provides a sometimes similar but distinct oversight role. For additional information, refer to these lists of state legislative ethics oversight entities and committees. The Center for Ethics maintains several resources that detail various aspects of ethics oversight, including effectiveness. Related LegisBriefs provide snapshots on how states enforced ethics rules in 2007, 2008, 2014, 2016, . Additional resources discuss related issues, such as separation of powers and legislative immunity, penalties for violations, how violations are punished, and recovery of legal fees for frivolous or unsuccessful ethics complaints.



Oversight, Ethics Committees and Commissions



Committees Vs. Commissions

Every U.S. jurisdiction maintains some form of ethics oversight, whether in the form of a legislative committee, ethics commission or a combination of both. This table explains difference between the entities that oversee legislative ethics rules.



Committee Powers, Duties

Most states have some form of an ethics committee, which offer an important way for legislatures to solidify their credibility with the public. This chart provides information on the committees of each state.