WASHINGTON — Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose) has been named chairwoman of the House Ethics Committee, taking over at a crucial time for the nation and further increasing California's clout in Washington.
A pledge by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) to "drain the swamp" -- referring to a culture of corruption that many said had permeated Republican-controlled Washington -- helped Democrats win control of the House in 2006. But at the top of the committee's current agenda is an investigation of a powerful Democrat, Rep. Charles B. Rangel of New York, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.
The ethics panel, the only committee in the House with an equal number of Democrats and Republicans, came in for criticism when Republicans were in the majority for failing to aggressively investigate scandals that rocked Capitol Hill.
Lofgren, who was elected to the House in 1994 and heads the California House Democratic delegation, called the appointment an honor. Others, however, have called it a job that no one wants because it involves investigating colleagues.
"Having served for eight years as a member of the committee earlier in my congressional tenure, I've seen firsthand the immensely important role it plays," Lofgren said. "The American people deserve a Congress that holds their interest above all others. I pledge to work in a bipartisan manner to ensure that the House of Representatives maintains the highest of ethical standards and holds the public interest above all."
With Lofgren's appointment, Californians will chair five House committees, more than any other state, in addition to Pelosi serving as House speaker.