House ethics rules are apparently about to get new teeth. Not all that sharp, but still.... Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader John Boehner today unveiled names for the six-person panel to lead the new Office of Congressional Ethics.
More simply put: These are the six people who will recommend if cases should go to the House ethics committee (officially, the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct) for full-blown investigations.
As watchdog group Common Cause points out, the Office of Congressional Ethics will take some decisions about ethics enforcement out of the hands of Congress itself.
This change will spare lawmakers the agony of casting the first stone -- an act they've assiduously avoided in some big cases. If you think of former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, whose payoff price list, on congressional letterhead, helped prosecutors put him in prison, or current Rep. William Jefferson, indicted on bribery charges after FBI agents found $90,000 neatly bagged in his freezer, or a variety of lawmakers and staffers linked to former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, you've got the idea. Members of Congress don't rush to judgment.
Nor did they rush into this new ethics process. The concept of an independent office has been around for years. Democrats talked it up when in the 2006 campaign, and after they took over Congress that fall, ethics reformers have been lobbying for it. The House passed it this past March. The Senate wasn't interested.
The names of the ethics panelists are after the jump.
The first line of ethics enforcement for the House of Representatives:
chair David Skaggs -- former Rep., D-CO; now executive director, Center for Democracy and Citizenship Program at the Council for Excellence in Government, and Washington lawyer
co-chair Porter Goss -- former Rep., R-FL; former director of CIA
Yvonne Braithwaite Burke -- fromer Rep., D-CA; former member Los Angeles County board of supervisors
Karan English -- former Rep., D-AZ; now director of an ecological program at Northern Arizona University
Jay Eagen -- former House chief administrative officer
Allison Hayward -- former counsel to Bradley Smith, then chair of the Federal Election Commission; now an assistant professor at George Mason University law school
alternate Abner Mikva -- former Rep., D-IL; former federal appellate judge, former chief counsel to President Clinton
alternate Bill Frenzel -- former Rep., R-MN; guest scholar at the Brookings Institution