House: Mollohan Steps Down From Ethics Post
Bowing to pressure from Republicans, fellow Democrats and the news media, Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.) today stepped down from his post as the ranking Democrat on the House Ethics Committee.
"Today I have accepted, at his request, the decision of Congressman Alan Mollohan to step aside temporarily as the ranking member of the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) said in a statement. "Congressman Howard Berman, who previously served as the senior member of the Ethics Committee, has agreed to accept my appointment to return temporarily as ranking member."
Mollohan's decision follows several weeks of controversy sparked by a complaint filed with the Justice Department by the National Legal & Policy Center alleging -- among other things -- that Mollohan had inaccurately reported his wealth in past personal financial disclosures. The complaint also called into question the massive increase in Mollohan's household assets over the past four years, the same period during which he secured more than $200 million in earmarks for nonprofit groups that he helped to establish.
Mollohan has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in the matter, but Republicans -- led by National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Reynolds (N.Y.) have called on him to forfeit his Ethics Committee post at least until the Justice Department decides whether it should open open a formal investigation into the complaint. (The Washington Post and New York times editorial boards have also encouraged Mollohan to step aside.)
Republicans pressured Pelosi to call for Mollohan's resignation, pointing out that she was a leading voice for Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio) to step down as chairman of the House Administration Committee after he was implicated in the Jack Abramoff scandal.
The political ramifications of Mollohan's move are uncertain, but at first glance it appears to hand Republicans a rhetorical arrow for the fall campaign. Democrats have made much of the so-called "culture of corruption" they say pervades Republican-controlled Washington, a message that is muddied somewhat by Mollohan's resignation from the committee and the problems surrounding Louisiana Rep. Bill Jefferson (D). The move could also spell trouble for Mollohan's reelection bid; he is being opposed by state Del. Chris Wakim (R).
Reynolds said late Friday that he was "shocked" that it took Mollohan so long to resign his post. "The deep-rooted Democrat culture of hypocrisy has been exposed once again," Reynolds said.
Pelosi, however, struck a strident tone in her statement, insisting that the allegations against Mollohan are "an attempt to deflect attention from the long list of Republican criminal investigations, indictments, plea agreements and resignations that have resulted from the reported long-term and extensive criminal enterprise run out of House Republican leadership offices."
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