You are hereTalking Points Memo: 'Non-Partisan' House Ethics Staffer Donated To RNC

Talking Points Memo: 'Non-Partisan' House Ethics Staffer Donated To RNC

March 16, 2011- The House and Senate Ethics Committees are supposed to be the two panels in Congress that operate, to the best of their ability, in a nonpartisan way. At least, that's what they say.

There are plenty of internal committee rules stating that all staff must be non-partisan and abide by rules barring them from engaging in political or partisan activity of any kind. But there is little proof, as TPM has discovered, that anyone is enforcing these rules.

As TPM reported earlier this week, partisan sniping on the panel has undermined any stated ability for the panel to operate in a nonpartisan manner. Republicans on the Natural Resources Committee, led by Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA), have decided to take in an attorney Democrats on the panel suspended last year amid accusations that she bungled -- or alternatively -- aggressively pursued the case against Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) to the Democrats' chagrin.

The ongoing tensions and partisan jabs were on public display earlier this week when a private letter, in which Ethics Committee Chairman Jo Bonner (R-AL) accused his Democratic predecessor, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (CA), of breaking House rules by trying to fire the two attorneys who worked on the Waters case, was leaked to the Washington Post.

In the letter, according to the Post, Bonner said that Lofgren's decision was unilateral and taken "without cause, in my view," and that the two staffers - counsels Morgan Kim and Stacey Sovereign - had "acted appropriately and consistent with the highest ethical standards."

Bonner reinstated the attorneys, he said in the letter, which raises its own questions of whether he is following committee rules requiring staffers to be approved by the full panel at the beginning of the Congress. Kim decided to resign instead and ended up on the Natural Resources Committee in a newly created Office of Oversight and Investigations, which is unique to the panel.




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