Commentary: Dicks can help raise House's ethical standards

U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks is making a good first mark as he embarks on a powerful role in Congress.

Dicks, the Belfair Democrat who became chairman of the House Appropriations Committee's defense subcommittee this month, is the co-author of House Democrats' new ban on corporate earmarks.

He and Rep. David Obey, a Wisconsin Democrat and chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, announced the rule last week.

Earmark reform is both timely and overdue. Days before House Democrats unveiled the ban, an ethics investigation had cleared Dicks and other members of Congress of trading earmarks for campaign contributions.

That investigation certainly helped bring the issue to the fore, but so too did changes in congressional leadership. The late chairman of the defense subcommittee, Rep. John Murtha, was a notorious pork barreler and had resisted past efforts to curtail such dictates.

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