A watchdog group is calling on Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) — the new ranking member on the ethics panel — to produce a private Ethics Committee opinion about her decision to share staff with her sister.
Sanchez and her sister, Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.), were the subject of Ethics Committee scrutiny in 2009 for potentially violating House rules for improperly sharing staff. Linda Sanchez put three of her sister’s legislative aides on her payroll after an embezzlement scheme left Loretta Sanchez’s office short of funds.
Stan Brand, a lawyer for the sisters, said at the time that they had sought an opinion from the Ethics Committee in late 2006 or 2007 about the employee transfer. The committee appeared to never have opened a formal inquiry into the matter and no action was taken.
CREW executive director Melanie Sloan said she doesn’t necessarily believe that explanation.
“I don’t buy it,” Sloan said of the story that the case was closed or never formally initiated. “I want to see the opinion or the report. If she’s going to be the top Democrat on Ethics, she needs to come clean on this.”
A spokesman for Sanchez did not immediately return a request for comment.
Earlier this week, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) tapped Sanchez to fill the ranking member spot on the House Ethics Committee after Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) stepped down from the panel.
Finding strong members to serve on the ethics panel, especially in the most senior positions, is never easy because the job involves policing other members’ activities and can often put lawmakers in awkward positions.
Lofgren wanted to leave the committee after a rocky two years dominated by the ugly public spectacles involving the ethics trials of Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) and Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and bitter jurisdictional and procedural feuds between the Ethics panel and the Office of Congressional Ethics, a new entity created to burnish the House ethics record.
Pelosi had a tough time finding Logren’s replacement and negotiated with other Democrats during the process of assigning members to committee before she named Sanchez and a whole new slate of Democratic Ethics panel members.
Sanchez, who chaired a Judiciary subcommittee that played a leading role in the scandal involving U.S. attorney firings, was able to keep her seat on that powerful committee, possibly making it more palatable for her to serve as ranking member on
In naming Sanchez to the panel, Pelosi said the American people deserve to have members of Congress live up to the highest standards of ethical conduct and that she believes Sanchez is up to the task of ensuring ethics rules are followed.
“Working with fellow Democrats devoted to integrity in public life, Congresswoman Sanchez will use her reputation for hard work, her dedication to fairness, and her willingness to take on tough tasks to ensure we uphold our commitment to ethics in the House,” Pelosi said in a statement.
Sanchez said she wanted to make sure citizens’ confidence in their elected leaders is never in doubt. “It is my goal to make certain that all who work in Congress do so in accordance with our system of rules, and that we remember that in order to protect and preserve our democracy, we must maintain these standards of conduct,” she said.
Sloan, however, is skeptical, and wants to know more about Sanchez’s personal record on ethics.
Pelosi chose Sanchez on Tuesday and followed up by choosing a whole new roster of Ethics Committee Democrats, including Reps. Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoSenators call for Smithsonian Latino, women's museums to be built on National Mall Democrats call out Biden Supreme Court commission Midterm gloom grows for Democrats MORE (Hawaii), John YarmuthJohn Allen YarmuthTexas Democrat Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson announces retirement at end of term Dems brace for score on massive Biden bill Midterm gloom grows for Democrats MORE (Ky.) and Donna Edwards (Md.) and Puerto Rican Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi.
Sloan had kind words for Edwards, who served on CREW’s board before becoming a member of Congress.
“She’s very dedicated to ethics,” Sloan said.