House leaders appoint distinguished panel to lead new ethics office

Common Cause commends the Democratic and Republican House leadership for appointing a distinguished bipartisan panel to lead the newly created Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) to review allegations of misconduct and make recommendations to the House Ethics Committee. The panel marks the first time people outside of House membership are active participants in that chamber’s ethics enforcement process.

“We hope that the new independent ethics office takes its job seriously and brings the transparency, accountability, independence and objectivity that has been sorely missing from the House in the past decade,” said Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Republican Leader John Boehner today announced the panel members will be former Rep. David Skaggs, (D-CO), as chairman; former CIA director and former Rep. Porter Goss (R-FL), as co-chairman; former Rep. Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, (D-CA); former House Chief Administrative officer Jay Eagen; former Rep. Karan English, (D-AZ); Allison Hayward, former chief of staff to Bradley Smith of the Federal Election Commission; former federal judge and former Rep. Abner Mikva, (D-IL), and former Rep. Bill Frenzel (R-MN). Mikva and Frenzel will serve as alternates to the panel.

Common Cause would have preferred that fewer than half the panelists were former members of Congress so that more distance would exist between House Members and the OCE.

The House in March made history by voting 229-182 to create the six-member Office of Congressional Ethics, which has the power to initiate and conduct ethics investigations and issue reports and recommendations to the House Ethics Committee.

That vote came after several years of congressional scandals during which the House Ethics Committee took no action, despite high-profile investigations and criminal charges or indictments that were brought against former members, including Randy “Duke” Cunningham, Bob Ney and Rep. William Jefferson.