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GOP Ethics Roster Gains Counsel, 4 New Members

A month into the 110th Congress, the Republican roster on the House ethics committee is finally taking shape, as ranking member Doc Hastings (Wash.) has chosen a new counsel and four lawmakers have been picked to serve on the panel.

The House Republican Conference is scheduled to ratify the four new members of the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct at its weekly meeting today.

Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) has asked GOP Reps. Gresham Barrett (S.C.), Jo Bonner (Ala.), John Kline (Minn.) and Mike McCaul (Texas) to serve on the investigative panel under Hastings. Members of the committee are leader-appointed and generally rotate off after six years of service. Democrats also have one vacancy, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has not yet named the new member.

Hastings, meanwhile, has picked Todd Ungerecht, a former Washington state prosecutor and ex-Hill hand, to be the new Republican counsel on ethics.

“Todd was with me when I first came to Congress in 1995 and I’m pleased to have him return as my point person on ethics matters,” Hastings said. “With more than a decade of public service under his belt and a reputation for excellence and integrity, I have complete confidence in him.”

Ungerecht and the committee’s new GOP members are sure to be plunged quickly into the delicate debate over how to reinvigorate the controversial ethics panel, whose business came to a virtual stand-still in the 109th Congress amid personal and political sparring between then-Chairman Hastings and former ranking member Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.). The committee, which is now chaired by Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Ohio), also will be charged with enforcing sweeping new gift and lobby rules implemented by the new Democratic majority.

Starting Feb. 20, Ungerecht will report directly to Hastings, replacing Ed Cassidy, who is now a senior adviser to Boehner.

Since leaving the Hill in 2001, Ungerecht has spent six years at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, most recently as senior policy adviser for NOAA’s Western Region Center in Seattle. His most high-profile battle was over restrictions on salmon fishing in Northern California and Oregon.

Before leaving the Hill, Ungerecht served as legislative director for then-Rep. Butch Otter (R-Idaho) and as a legislative assistant handling natural resource issues for former Sen. Slade Gorton (R-Wash.). He was a legislative assistant handling judicial and transportation issues from 1995 to 1997 for Hastings.

A Pasco, Wash., native, Ungerecht was a deputy prosecuting attorney from 1993 to 1994 for Franklin County, Wash. He got his bachelor’s and law degrees from Gonzaga University in Spokane and is a member of the Washington State Bar Association.