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Charlie Dent: Nice Guy Tapped for Tough Job

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Pennsylvania Republican Charlie Dent will serve as chairman of the House Ethics Committee in the next Congress, Speaker John A. Boehner announced in a statement praising the congressman's practicality.  

“Charlie Dent is the epitome of what an Ethics Committee chairman should be: he is thoughtful and well-respected on both sides of the aisle for his integrity and good judgment," Boehner stated Tuesday, of his pick to take the gavel from K. Michael Conaway on the bipartisan panel. Conaway will move to the top spot on the House Agriculture Committee, as one of six Texas Republicans to chair full House committees in the 114th Congress.  

"The American people expect the highest standards of conduct from their elected officials, and I’m confident that under Charlie’s leadership, the Ethics Committee will continue to ensure accountability and protect the public trust,” Boehner continued.  

As one of a dwindling number of centrists in the chamber, the 54-year-old Dent is a leader of an informal caucus of moderate lawmakers known as the Tuesday Group. He briefly stepped into the spotlight during the October 2013 federal shutdown when he criticized conservatives for misguided tactics and said he would vote to end it. The move got him branded a "Republican In Name Only," by Pennsylvania tea party members , but he faced no primary challenge and ran unopposed in November. The former electronics salesman and development officer for Lehigh University was first elected to Congress in 2004, when conservative Republican Patrick J. Toomey gave up his House seat to launch a primary challenge to Sen. Arlen Specter. Some of the strongest relationships he has forged have been through his work on the Ethics Committee, which he joined in 2009, he said in a Tuesday statement.  

“I appreciate the trust that the Speaker and my colleagues have placed in me for the last [six] years as I have served on the Ethics Committee," Dent said in a statement, vowing to "serve with diligence and integrity to ensure enforcement of the highest standards of ethical conduct." Because the committee is composed of five members from each party, Dent said it must operate in a "truly bipartisan manner."  

The Ethics Committee enforces standards of conduct, issues advisory opinions and investigates potential ethics violations. The lawmakers field referrals from the quasi-independent Office of Congressional Ethics. Congressional watchdogs claim the 2009 creation of OCE helped clean up Congress and shed more sunlight on wrongdoing, but they want more power for the office and more aggressive action from the committee.  

Dent did not grant an interview for this story. Committee members operate under the panel's confidentiality rules.  

"I look forward to continuing to work in that manner to provide the accountability and transparency the American people demand of their elected leaders," he said in a statement.  

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Topics: ethics