The Washington Times - January 16, 2013, 05:36PM

House leaders reappointed the board of directors for a Congressional ethics panel Wednesday, officially allowing the House-funded investigative unit to remain up and running.

Late last year, as lawmakers were struggling to complete their work and negotiate a fiscal cliff deal with President Obama, several government watchdog organizations were worried that House leaders might try to kill the Office of Congressional Ethics, an independent ethics review panel established in 2008, without any notice in the end-of-the-year shuffle.

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A group of 11 watchdog groups in late December called on Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to make the appointments. Each leader names four individuals to serve on the panel.

The OCE, which launches preliminary investigations and makes recommendations to the full Ethics Committee for further action, has reviewed a record number of cases in its short tenure — and that record hasn’t won it many friends in Congress.

Mrs. Pelosi, California Democrat, had pushed the creation of the independent board through the House when she was still speaker to help burnish the members’ poor record of holding their peers accountable for unethical activities.

The measure creating the OCE narrowly passed — to the frustration of a number of Democratic and Republican lawmakers who argue the Constitution only gives Congress the right and power to police its own ethics.

Four of the OCE’s six board members’ terms were set to expire, and without them, the panel couldn’t take up cases or vote on any matter.

In a joint press release Wednesday, Mr. Boehner, Ohio Republican, and Mrs. Pelosi announced they were reappointing the acting board with only one change: Former Rep. Abner Mikva, a Democrat from Illinois, former federal judge and White House counsel under President Clinton, gave up his position as an alternate, non-voting member of the board.

The 86-year-old Mikva will be replaced by former Rep. Mike Barnes, a Democrat from Maryland and an attorney who served a stint as the president of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

The rest of the board will remain the same:

• Former CIA director and former Rep. Porter J. Goss, a Republicans from Florida, will serve as chairman.

• Former Rep. David Skaggs, a Democrat from Colorado, will serve as co-chairman.

• Former congresswoman Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, a Democrat from California.

• Former House chief administrative officer Jay Eagen.

• Former congresswoman Karan English, a Democrat from Arizona.

• Allison Hayway, a government ethics attorney and former chief of staff of the Federal Election Commission.

• Former congressman Bill Frenzel, a Republican from Minnesota, will be an alternate.