House considers new ethics panel

Nancy Marshall-Genzer Feb 28, 2008


Lisa Napoli: The U.S. House is expected to vote today on whether to set up a new, independent panel to screen ethics complaints. The new board would be made up of outsiders. Marketplace’s Nancy Marshall Genzer explains.

Nancy Marshall Genzer: The new ethics panel could initiate preliminary inquiries into alleged improprieties, but the House Ethics Committee would still conduct the actual investigations. The new bipartisan would have six members, but just two could start an inquiry.

Republican Congressman Todd Tiahrt of Kansas worries the panel could launch political witch hunts:

Todd Tiahrt: Outside groups could try to get investigations that could impact the careers of members of Congress unjustly.

But congressional watchdogs, like Gary Kalman of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, say the new panel’s initial inquiries would be private. A majority would have to vote to make them public.

Kalman says outsiders are needed, because Congress has done a lousy job of policing itself.

Gary Kalman: The ethics process looks a lot like a firing squad standing in a circle. No one wants to shoot first, for fear of creating a blood bath.

The House ethics committee has refused to get involved in some high-profile ethics cases.

In Washington, I’m Nancy Marshall Genzer for Marketplace.

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