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Citizen ethics panel to watch over Congress

US Capitol Building

MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: There's word on Capitol Hill that a new House Ethics Commission — one not made up of members of Congress — could be a reality soon. A bipartisan task force will meet this week to hash out the details. But some groups are already saying this new commission won't have enough power. Jeremy Hobson has more from Washington.


JEREMY HOBSON: Discussions are still ongoing, but people on the inside say the new independent commission would be able to investigate complaints, though without subpoena power. It would send its findings over to the existing House Ethics Committee, which would then conduct its own investigations.

That's not enough for Melanie Sloan of the group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. She wants the commission to have real teeth.

MELANIE SLOAN: If they are still going to have to go to the chairman and ranking member of the ethics committee before they can issue so much as a single subpoena, then the ethics committee — which means members of Congress — will still be able to stymie any inconvenient investigations.

But even Sloan says the panel would be a step in the right direction. And Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, is especially happy about one aspect.

TOM FITTON: Well, the most important thing is that it would allow independent groups, outside groups, citizens and activists to file ethics complaints against members of Congress.

So get those complaints ready — action on the independent panel could come as early as this week.

In Washington, I'm Jeremy Hobson for Marketplace.

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