Lofgren to Head Up Ethics

Posted January 20, 2009 at 6:40pm

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced Tuesday that she will tap fellow California Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D) to take over the House ethics committee.

Lofgren, who must be confirmed by the full Democratic Caucus, succeeds Rep. Gene Green (D-Texas), who took the role of acting chairman following the death of Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Ohio).

“Congresswoman Lofgren has demonstrated tremendous leadership in her 15 years of service to the House of Representatives,” Pelosi said. “With this appointment, she will hold Members of Congress to the highest ethical standard.”

Lofgren previously served on the committee from 1997 to 2002, and her tenure included the panel’s vote to expel then-Rep. James Traficant (Ohio) from the House in 2002.

Under House rules, Members are limited to three terms on the ethics committee in a 10-year period, but lawmakers may serve a fourth term as the panel’s chairman or ranking member.

“I’m honored to have been selected to chair the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct,” Lofgren said in a statement. Citing her previous tenure on the panel, she added: “I’ve seen firsthand the immensely important role it plays.”

“Without the public’s trust and confidence, government loses its legitimacy. The Committee on Standards of Official Conduct exists to ensure that the House of Representatives maintains that trust and confidence, and in turn its legitimacy,” added Lofgren, who also holds seats on the Homeland Security, Judiciary and House Administration committees. A Lofgren aide said she does not plan to forgo any of those seats.

In the new session, the panel is expected to renew its investigation of Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.), which expired at the end of the 110th Congress.

The committee is examining Rangel’s fundraising efforts on behalf of a City College of New York center named in his honor, including an alleged quid pro quo of legislation in exchange for donations to the college.

The probe also includes Rangel’s ownership of a villa in the Dominican Republic and his failure to report rental income on that property, which led to unpaid taxes; his use of House parking facilities for long-term vehicle storage; and the lawmaker’s use of three rent-controlled apartments as his primary residence.

Rangel has denied any wrongdoing related to his fundraising efforts, but he has acknowledged the unpaid taxes.

Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) recently announced Rep. Jo Bonner (Ala.) would serve as the panel’s top Republican.

In addition to Bonner, Republicans reappointed Reps. Gresham Barrett (S.C.) and John Kline (Minn.) to the panel and added Reps. Mike Conaway (Texas) and Charlie Dent (Pa.).

Democrats have not announced the remainder of their ethics committee slate. In addition to Green, Reps. Lucille Roybal-Allard (Calif.) and Mike Doyle (Pa.) were also term-limited off the committee. Rep. Bobby Scott (Va.), who filled the vacancy caused by Jones’ death, said he would not return, leaving Rep. Bill Delahunt (Mass.) as the only Democratic Member expected to return to the panel.