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Office of Congressional Ethics board shuffles leaders

Mike Barnes to replace David Skaggs as chairman

The U.S. flag waves in front of the Capitol dome on Aug. 15, 2019.
The U.S. flag waves in front of the Capitol dome on Aug. 15, 2019. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Former Rep. Mike Barnes, a Maryland Democrat, has been elevated to chairman of the board for the Office of Congressional Ethics, replacing former Rep. David Skaggs, whose resignation was made public on Friday.

Skaggs, a Colorado Democrat, had been on the board of the Office of Congressional Ethics since its inception in 2008.

“It has been an honor and a privilege to serve as chair, and during Republican majorities, co-chair, of the board of the Office of Congressional Ethics since your appointment in 2008,” Skaggs wrote in his resignation letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., which was read on the House floor Friday.

The OCE’s board is comprised of six voting members and two alternates. The speaker and the House minority leader each get to select three members and an alternate. Both the speaker and the minority leader must sign off on each other’s picks, including the chair and the co-chair.

Board members are private citizens, cannot work as lobbyists and must agree not to run for federal office.

“The work the board and staff have done to carry out the mission of OCE over almost 13 years has confirmed your original vision and I believe has brought credit to the House of Representatives,” Skaggs said in his letter.

Barnes has been serving as a member of the OCE’s eight-person board of directors since 2013. The board is tasked with authorizing each stage of the office’s investigative process. The board is also responsible for determining whether to recommend that the House Ethics Committee investigate a matter or dismiss it.

Barnes served in the House from 1979 to 1987. Over that period, he was assistant majority whip, and served on the Foreign Affairs, Budget and Judiciary committees. Retired from practicing law, he is a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy in Washington and has served in various public service capacities, including for the Maryland Public Service Commission. Additionally, he had a stint as president of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

Barnes has an undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and a law degree from George Washington University Law School. He served in the Marine Corps and Marine Corps Reserve for six years and received the Vietnam Service Medal and the Good Conduct Medal.

Tia Yang contributed to this report.

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