In a Season of Scandals, Ethics Panels All MIA

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The House ethics committee, the panel responsible for upholding the chamber's ethics code, has been virtually moribund for the past year, handling only routine business despite a wave of federal investigations into close and potentially illegal relationships between lawmakers and lobbyists.

With a California congressman headed to prison for accepting bribes and several others under investigation for accepting lavish gifts and money from former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, one might expect the House committee to have a lot of work to do.

But the committee's five Republican and five Democratic members have not opened a new case or launched an investigation in the past 12 months. It took months to hire a new chief of staff, and he still is not in place. Nor has the panel hired a full complement of investigators.

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