Former Maryland congressman Michael D. Barnes has taken over leadership of a bipartisan ethics panel on Capitol Hill.
Barnes on Friday became board chairman of the Office of Congressional Ethics, the gatekeeper for ethics complaints lodged against members of the House of Representatives. Barnes, a Democrat who has served on the panel for many years, was appointed chairman by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) following the resignation last week of the longtime chairman David Skaggs, a former Democratic congressman from Colorado who has led the board since its inception in 2008.
The OCE was created by Pelosi during her first go-round as speaker, following a string of scandals involving mostly House Republicans. Several members of the panel are former members of Congress.
The OCE is the first stop for people who lodge ethics complaints against House members or their staff. The ethics office investigates the initial complaints and if the evidence is deemed sufficient, the case is passed along to the House Committee on Ethics, which consists of five Republicans and five Democrats.
The OCE board has six voting members and two alternates. The speaker and the House minority leader each appoints three members and an alternate, and the House leaders must sign off on each other’s picks. The speaker appoints the chair and the minority leader appoints the vice chair.
Barnes served in Congress representing Maryland’s 8th District from 1979 to 1987, and lost the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate in 1986. He was initially appointed by then-Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) to serve as state comptroller following the death of 40-year comptroller Louis L. Goldstein (D) in 1998. But Barnes withdrew when former Gov. William Donald Schaefer (D) expressed interest in the job.