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House Ethics Seeks 43% Boost

The House ethics committee has requested a $6.1 million operating budget for the 110th Congress, nearly a 43 percent increase from the previous Congress. If approved by the House Administration Committee, which has jurisdiction over all House committee budgets, the investigative panel will have doubled its funding since the 108th Congress, when it had a $3 million budget.

The request marks a dramatic increase in committee spending in recent years. Throughout most of the 1990s, the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct funding consistently hovered in the mid-$2 million range. In the 109th Congress, then-Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) and then-ranking member Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.) asked for and received an operational budget of $4.2 million, a 40 percent increase.

At the time, Hastings outlined his intentions to use the funds to hire additional investigative staff, increase ethics education efforts, revamp the panel’s Web site to make it more user-friendly and to reissue committee guidelines available to Members, staff and the public.

Those additional funds, however, largely went unused after Hastings and Mollohan deadlocked on a number of issues that left the panel inactive for several months during the 109th Congress, and Hastings was unsuccessful in achieving a number of those objectives.

Chairwoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Ohio) has indicated she would like to hire additional investigative staff. The panel also is taking on increased responsibility to vet and approve privately funded travel requests by Members and staff in the wake of new travel guidelines unveiled Feb. 20.

According to LegiStorm.com, a tracking service for Congressional staff salaries, the ethics panel had 12 staffers on the payroll in late 2006, including eight staff counsels. In early February, Jones hired one additional counsel, Dawn Kelly Mobley.

The panel on Feb. 16 requested a $3 million budget to be allocated in 2007, and $3.1 million for 2008. While the funding request, if approved, will double the budget in a little over three years, the ethics committee still has the smallest operational budget of all House committees.

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