Wednesday, June 28, 2006

AWKWARD WATCHDOG -- As you may recall Rep. Allan Mollohan (D-W. Va.) temporarily stepped down as ranking member on the House ethics committee after he came under his own ethics cloud, which has created an awkward situation for his successor:
Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) reluctantly assumed the ranking member’s post at the House ethics committee two months ago, insisting that his reign as senior Democrat be temporary. But since Berman’s arrival, the ethics panel has started three new probes and created a voluntary approval process for member travel, with Berman displaying a warm rapport with Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) that Mollohan noticeably lacked.

Mollohan continues to weather the federal probe of his earmarks and real-estate investments that prompted him to step down from the panel, a complex inquiry that could remain active well into next year. Still, whether Berman will or should extend his stay at ethics — as a potential chairman, if Democrats take the House — remains an open question.