Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, chosen this week to head the powerful House Rules Committee, promises the House will pass rules of conduct that will deal with corrupt practices "so prevalent" in the current Republican-controlled Congress.
Slaughter, D-Fairport, will introduce new rules on travel, gifts and special interest appropriations called "pork" when Democrats open the 110th Congress on Jan. 4.
Slaughter's district includes portions of Buffalo, Erie and Niagara counties.
"Investigations into the conduct of members must be vigorous," Slaughter said. She said she and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaker designate, "are determined to get the ethics committee back on its feet."
While there is general agreement that lobbyist-paid travel and gifts will be restricted in the new rules, the fine print is still being drafted. One sticking point is a proposal by reformers that the House hire an outside agency or counsel to monitor the behavior of members.
Pelosi has resisted independent monitors in the past. A reform coalition of six organizations this week asked the new Congress to create a "nonpartisan, professional enforcement entity to help enforce the House ethics rules."
The coalition includes Democracy21, Common Cause, the League of Women Voters, Public Citizen, the Campaign Legal Center and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.
They asked that lobbyists be banned from paying for travel by members and staff, that gifts including meals and lodging paid by lobbyists be prohibited, and that if members are invited to fly in corporate jets, they pay the real cost of the flights, not just a symbolic amount.
The Democratic caucus on Wednesday formally selected Slaughter to head the panel, making her among the top four Democrats in the House.
"I am truly honored to have been given this historic opportunity by Leader Pelosi and by my Democratic colleagues," said Slaughter, the first woman to head the panel, which dates from 1789. "I am going to work to restore civility, responsibility, and accountability to the political process in the House of Representatives."
The reform coalition proposed legislation that would require that lobbyists:
Disclose all their direct and indirect campaign contributions.
Publicize gifts to foundations controlled by members.
Disclose the specific appropriations, or "pork," for which they lobby.
Report money they spend on grass-roots lobbying campaigns aimed at the public, and require "stealth" lobbying organizations to disclose who is paying for them.