January 9, 2003
Voinovich takes over Senate ethics post
By PAUL M. KRAWZAK
Copley Washington correspondent
WASHINGTON — Sen. George Voinovich has been named chairman of the sensitive and secretive Senate Ethics Committee, marking the first time he will lead a committee.
The public hears little about the panel’s investigations or meetings, which remain confidential unless a member is disciplined.
Meanwhile, House Republican leaders gave the OK Wednesday for Rep. Ralph Regula, R-Bethlehem Township, to remain chairman of a powerful appropriations subcommittee that shapes spending on health care and education.
Along with his new chairmanship, Voinovich, a Republican, won a seat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. That spot gives the first-term senator a platform to become more involved in one of his key interests — promoting closer ties with nations in southeastern Europe.
“He wants to help new members integrate into NATO well to strengthen the overall alliance, which he believes is a strong stabilizing influence,” Voinovich spokesman Scott Milburn said. Voinovich is descended from immigrants from Slovenia and Serbia, which are in that region.
Many consider chairing the Ethics Committee a thankless task. It combines hard work with unpopularity and few rewards. The committee has the duty to enforce the ethics code, investigate violations and discipline members.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., asked Voinovich “if he would take it and he said, ‘If this is something you want me to do, I’ll do it for the sake of the Senate,”’ according to Milburn.
Last July, the committee severely admonished New Jersey Sen. Robert Toricelli for improperly accepting gifts. Although Toricelli escaped criminal charges, he withdrew his subsequent bid for re-election.
Based on seniority, Voinovich was in line for the chairmanship after Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, who was the senior Republican on the panel. Roberts opted for the more attractive post of chairing the Intelligence Committee.
Ohio’s senior senator, Republican Mike DeWine, expects to retain his coveted post on the Appropriations Committee, as well as the Intelligence and Judiciary committees.