No-win assignment tests ethics chair

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When she was first given the gavel of the House ethics committee, Rep. Zoe Lofgren said she wasn’t looking forward to chairing the panel that nobody wants to hear from.

“It is not a fun assignment,” Lofgren admitted in January 2009 upon being appointed to the post by Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Now, with an extraordinary “trial” looming for her venerable Democratic colleague, Rep. Charles Rangel of New York, Lofgren’s job may be even less fun.

She is the most powerful figure in a no-win situation: If she goes too hard at Rangel, she may lose friends inside the Democratic Caucus as the high-profile scandal hurts the party nationwide. If she’s perceived as being too soft on Rangel, it could undermine the independence of the ethics panel — and open the committee to attacks from Republicans.

“Personally, it’s got to be a very difficult thing to have to be weighing judgment on a colleague, but this is a duty she’s been given,” said David Thomas, Lofgren’s former chief of staff. “She and the ethics committee staff and her colleagues will have thoroughly investigated what happened here.”

“If you had to choose a judge to be impartial in your case, she’s the one you’d want,” said John P. Flannery II, who not only served as special counsel to Lofgren during the impeachment of former President Bill Clinton but also worked for Republican Sens. Strom Thurmond and Orrin Hatch.

Full story: No-win assignment tests ethics chair – John Bresnahan and Jonathan Allen – POLITICO.com