Stephanie Tubbs Jones

Q&A with Stephanie Tubbs Jones - Jan. 18, 2007

Stephanie Tubbs Jones
January 18, 2007
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U.S. Rep. Tubbs Jones was interviewed on C-SPAN's talk show "Q&A" by host Brian Lamb.

LAMB: Stephanie Tubbs Jones, what's the difference between being in the minority and now being in the majority?

TUBBS JONES: Well, first time in the majority in all my life. It is an opportunity to be on the floor, argue a resolution—and it wins. I'm not being stuck with a motion to recommit and an inability to put in place opportunities. Clearly, this is only two to three weeks, so I'm looking forward to other opportunities. But the fact that the heads of the committees will allow you to discuss issues that are important to you or your organization or your party. Charlie Rangel, chair of the Ways and Means Committee—my chairman—an opportunity. Just think about this. In the four years I was on Ways and Means, seldom did we sit down, Republicans and Democrats, and discuss legislation, or have the opportunity to interact. Twice already—in just two weeks—the entire committee has sat in the hearing room—not in our seats, but in the open room, Republicans next to Democrats, with people who are going to give us advice and counsel—in the room, asking questions. Not under the screen of a media screen, but just kind of sitting back and getting to know each other. We went around that room and said, "What's your name? What's your city? What's your district? What are the issues that are going to be important to you?" I'm excited about the opportunity we have. All you have to do is look at the recent votes. Even though people are not necessarily excited about Speaker Pelosi's first 100 hours, we had 132 Republicans vote with us just the other day on the student loan change. We had—I'm not good on the numbers—but I think 42 with us on prescription drugs. And the list goes on. I think we've even freed up some of the now-minority to feel comfortable that they can vote with their conscience versus party line. Time will only tell.

LAMB: You've been in this town now seven years? Or is it…

JONES: Well, this is actually my ninth year.

LAMB: …ninth year.

JONES: I'm starting my ninth year.

LAMB: So, you came after the Republicans had taken over in the House.


LAMB: Why do you think they did what they did, in just the Ways and Means Committee, and splitting the Democrats and Republicans and not having the Democrats in on so many meetings?

JONES: Well, because it's easier to press your subject matter or press your issue without having the other side in there. Another example, on prescription drug benefit, Charlie Rangel was supposed to be, as the ranking member on Ways and Means, involved in that discussion. Chairman Thomas instead chose to use Democratic leaders in the Senate versus House leaders in crafting that bill, to be able to say it was a bipartisan bill. I can recount sitting one day, we decided we'd march over to his office with the media in tow with us to say to him, we're supposed to be a part of this. And he said, you can be part of the committee of the willing. I forgot exactly how he captioned it. And Charlie says, "Well, I don't have to be part of the committee of the willing. I'm elected on my own." I also believe that, at that juncture, everybody was you're either a Republican or you're a Democrat. You toed the party line or you got nothing coming. And that's how the Republicans ran their operation.

LAMB: East Cleveland, your district—83.44% of the vote last election. How do you do it?

JONES: This is my 25th year in public office. I started running when I was 31 years old—do the math, I'm 57, in case anybody's curious—as a municipal court judge. And for 25 years I've been running in Cleveland. Just for the record, my district encompasses a small portion of the west side of Cleveland, all of downtown Cleveland, the east side of Cleveland and then 22 suburbs. It's condensed, as compared to my colleagues who have 15 counties. It's probably 52 percent African American, a large Jewish population, a large Muslim—a substantial Muslim population. A somewhat, a small Hispanic population. But this is home. I went to college. I went to elementary school, junior high, high school, college, law school. I've never left Cleveland. Been in Cleveland all my life. I worked in two factories. I've worked in a restaurant. I've been in the same church for 57 years. That—anybody coming into my district to run against me has a lot of work to do. And that is because I campaign all the time. I'm in my district all the time. I grocery shop just for the fun of it, just to meet and greet my constituents.

LAMB: Do the Stokes have that position, the brother of Carl Stokes? How much does that matter? You've been a lot of firsts for African American women from Ohio. Now, one of the first ever to be chair of a committee. If not the—are you the first black woman to be chairman of a committee?

JONES: Not chair of a committee. You're taking my history back. Along with Juanita Millender-McDonald, African-American woman from California…

LAMB: Right.

JONES: …is chair of House Administration. I'm going to have to go back and do some work on whether I'm the first—she and I the first women, African-American women chairs. That's a great question. But Lewis Stokes, an icon. When Carl Stokes ran for mayor in 1967, I was a senior in high school. When Lewis Stokes ran for Congress in 1968, I was a freshman in college. I was in the campaign. I was out there doing what high schooler and college students do. I never thought in my wildest dreams that I'd ever become a personal friend of Carl and Lewis Stokes, or that I'd ever hold the seat that Lewis Stokes held. Didn't see him. We were—it was like there was a river running through the workers and the icons. That was just how it was back in the day. When I ran for muni court in 1981, got elected, started serving in 1982, that was January. In April of 1983, I was 8 ½ months pregnant. A seat came open on the common police court, general division. And a colleague of mine—his name was Judge Charles W. Fleming, he's the late judge—retired. The man who convinced me that I should go to law school. There was an opening, and he was in line to get the seat. And he came to me and he said, "Stephanie," he said, "I want you to have it." I said, "Judge, I'm 8.5 months pregnant. I'm getting ready to have a baby," you know. "I just won election" and all. And he says, "I don't care. I want you to have it." And I took the seat. Well, they replaced me on the municipal court with a young guy. And when Carl Stokes came back from New York to Cleveland, he decided he was going to run for a judge.

LAMB: He had been an anchorman on Channel 4.

JONES: He had been an anchorman.

LAMB: Yes.

JONES: Right, right.

LAMB: After being mayor of Cleveland.

JONES: Right. After being mayor he went to New York and became an anchorman. Came back to Cleveland, decided to run for a judgeship. Well, he ran for my seat. I was like, Carl Stokes running for my judge seat, right. But what happened was, the young man that they appointed thought that the party was going to endorse him. But because his opponent was Carl Stokes, they did not. Carl beat him. So, Carl's sitting as a judge. Don't you know, the next time around when it's time for me to run for my seat, the young guy who Carl beat decided he was going to run against me, because the party didn't endorse him. This is a young man that I have literally put next to me in my courtroom and said, this is how you do it, this is how you do it. And he came back and said, "Well, it's not personal." I said, "I don't know how you think it's not personal." It was very personal. But, so then, I say that story, because that is how Carl Stokes and I got to be personal friends, and we began to have conversations, go out to dinner. And we just enjoyed a wonderful relationship. And what he said to me when he came back and we were at an event, he says, "So, you're Stephanie Tubbs Jones." And I said, "Yeah, I am." And so, I said back, "So, you're Carl Stokes." I mean, but to have an historical figure, to have the opportunity to fun with him, it was a significant time in my life.

LAMB: When Nancy Pelosi named you the chairman of the Ethics Committee, she said you were tough and smart. What was your reaction to hearing those two words?

JONES: I accept them. I—for lack of a better word—I've earned those terms. I was a judge for 10 years in Ohio. And I necessarily did not want to be remembered as solely being tough. In the criminal justice community being tough is not enough. You have to be—develop a reputation for being fair. As a judge, if you are fair, people want to come in your courtroom. They want to try cases before you, because they know that if they have a fair judge, then they have an opportunity to win their case, no matter what side they're on. I loved judging. That was one of my greatest experiences, and perhaps because I was young. I was 31, 32 when I was a judge. But I loved to try cases. There's nothing better than seeing two skilled lawyers try a case in a courtroom. When they know the rules of evidence, it's almost like symphony, because they are back and forth with the objections. And I love it. And examining a witness. But I became the Cuyahoga County prosecutor. The story—and people are always amazed about it. I was a judge on the common police court. And my predecessor in the prosecutor's office—his name was John T. Corrigan—had been the prosecutor for 34 years. Thirty-four years. He had been the prosecutor since I was five years old, when I ran. Seven years old. Well, he decided that he was going to retire mid-term, and the deal was cut that his son would replace him in the office. I just came out of running for the Ohio supreme court. I've had all kinds of fun in my life. A woman that was a candidate for the Ohio supreme court found out she had a heart problem. She ran in the primary. In July her doctor said, you can't do this. So I took her place on the ballot in July for a November election, statewide. I managed to get around 44 of 88 counties in those four months. I only had $275,000 in a statewide race against an incumbent, and I lost by three percentage points. People said, well, you know, if I had known you were going to do this well, I would have given you more money. I told them, I said, I'm not on there just to hold place. If I'm going to be in this race, I'm going to win. Well, I didn't win then, but the aura around me was the fact, oh, she did this. You know, everybody knew my name. So, I got drafted by people in the party to run for prosecutor. Keep in mind, I had been an assistant prosecutor from 1976 to 1979. And many of the people in the office were there when I was there as an assistant. So, this is December 10. The prosecutor—then-prosecutor—decided that he was going to retire. I guess about Christmas I started getting calls saying, come on. You've got to do this. You want to do this. I told them, let me think about it through the holiday, New Year's, talk to my family. Well, I announced that I was going to run January 4. The election was January 12. And January 14, I was the elected prosecutor, the largest county in the state of Ohio. A hundred and fifty assistants, another 100—lawyer assistants—another 100 plus. And it was something. I mean, the day the election—it was a party election, so conceptually, I knew every person who was going to vote, because the precinct committee people are listed. I called 600 of those precinct committee people. I tell people I have a callus on this ear to prove that I was on the phone. And I won by 31 votes. People were stunned. They did not ever think that I would—well, the front page of the newspaper said, "Jones Topples the Old Guard." So, I literally walked in the prosecutor's office on Monday morning to talk to a staff of people, none of whom I hired. By law I could have sent all the lawyers and many of the staff out the door. But it didn't make any sense to me to do that kind of thing. But anyway, I'm trying to say that I earned the term tough and smart from the work that I've done. And I think that Speaker Pelosi chose me to be the Ethics chair, because of my background, because of my experience and because of the reputation that I have from my community. But also, I've been on Ethics for six years. I did—Traficant was my colleague in Ohio. And I was actively involved in that prosecution. Ethics is not a job that anybody naturally—what's the word I want to use—turns to necessarily. But it's a necessary part of any official or governmental agency. And when the speaker asks you to do something, you don't say no.

LAMB: How many members are there of the Ethics Committee? And how many of them have been appointed up to now?

JONES: There are 10 members of the Ethics Committee, five Democrats and five Republicans. In this 110th Congress, the committees have not been appointed by Republicans or Democrats, other than the chair and the ranking member. The ranking member is Doc Hastings, who was the chair in the 109th Congress.

LAMB: What kind of support do you have as the chairman?

JONES: You have—I should know how many attorneys there are there. I think there are about, somewhere—about eight. There is a systems person, tech person. There's a staff assistant, and there's an administrative assistant, a young woman. Her name is Joanne White, and she dates back to Lewis Stokes' time as chair of the Ethics Committee.

LAMB: So, after the ethics bill has been passed in the House, does it have to be passed in the Senate in order to be….

JONES: No, because these are House rules that we operate under. So there is—

LAMB: So it's done.

JONES: So there is a House ethics rule and then there's a Senate ethics rule. And there is a Senate Ethics Committee that's separate and apart from the House Ethics Committee.

LAMB: Well, you know, we just went through a very visible ethics challenge over the last several years. As the Democrats in charge now, you as the chairman and a new ethics bill, is America better off?

JONES: You know what? No legislation or individual person can make America better off. What America has before her now is new members of Congress, who understand what the American people want. We have to be careful to paint, or use a brush and paint, all members of Congress as the members of Congress who were recently removed from Congress, resigned from Congress for ethical violations. There are 435 members of Congress. Of that—535, including the Senate, but of the House, 435 members—who conduct themselves ethically. Less than 10 of those that were charged and violated the ethics standards. What we hope to do in this upcoming Congress is to be sure that all members of Congress understand the rules, that they are educated on the rules and that they do not violate the rules. We put laws in place, just laws for all of America. And the number, percentage of people who violate the law is small in comparison. The difference with an elected official is that people hold elected officials to a higher standard. There's a greater expectation that their conduct will be within the law and will not violate the standards. What I think America has now are members who understand that. Those that violated, though, understood it, but they chose to violate the law. I believe that in this upcoming Congress, based on some of the—changing the rules is not going to change necessarily people's conduct. But it gives them a stricter rule to apply their conduct to, to conform their conduct to. But overall, most of the members of the Congress, they follow the law. They're not engaged in Abramoff types of things or Ney types of things or Cunningham types of things. There are going to be some differences in terms of the rules. There are rule changes in terms of gifts from lobbyists. No gifts from lobbyists.

LAMB: No gifts, no meals, no nothing from lobbyists.

JONES: No. Now, of course, every rule has an exception. And I'm not going to try and sit here and give you each of those exceptions, because somebody's then going to go back and try and quote the chair of the Ethics Committee said A, B, C. But there are some exceptions. There are things like personal relationships. Are there—did you—do you have a personal relationship with a person? And there are specific guidelines that define what a personal relationship is. Members can still receive gifts from others, non-lobbyists. For example, the other day I got a call from a friend of mine with a law firm, and there's a big event going on in Cleveland. And under normal circumstances, I could accept these tickets for a nonprofit fundraiser that everybody's going to go to, from that person. But because he is part of a firm, and the firm hires lobbyists, I can no longer accept those. And I called him up and I said, "You know, as much as I'd like to attend this"—and I'm going to attend the event but I'm just going to buy my own ticket—I said, "I'm chair of the Ethics Committee. This is the last thing that I can—even if I could come up with some reason that you and I, I don't want to do that." And I think that members are now going to look at that and err in favor of not—even if there is an exception—not violating the exception. There are also changes with regard to tickets to sporting events. It used to be that, if you got invited to a sporting event and you were—it was part of a reception. Say, like, for example, you were in a loge that, and there was no face value on the ticket, then you could—it stepped out of the limitation on a gift. No longer is that the situation. A ticket is, even without face value, is valued at the highest value for a ticket going to a sporting event. So, if people go to sporting events now, they'll be buying their own ticket.

LAMB: Well, obviously, somebody felt, because that thing was passed overwhelmingly, that there were abuses to the gift and the travel and all that stuff. Can lobbyists, as they sit here in this town now, you know, they used to be able to take you to dinner, get you seat in the box out at the Redskins' ballgame, provide a private jet for you at the gate if you paid a first class ticket. Is all that gone?

JONES: That's gone. But understand, every member wasn't taken to a game, was not taken to dinner and was not on a first class ticket. That's a perception that is untrue. And you can go through, if someone chooses to do so, all of the official reports, reporting that members have to do in order to do that. That's gone. We are still working through what we call a pink sheet that explains specifically what each of these rules require to provide that to members of Congress. Those are not done yet. And it takes time, looking at the exceptions and the like. And you will have—members of Congress will have—those pink sheets, specifically. But the travel on a private jet? Paying the cost of a first class ticket is out. Travel on a private jet with a lobbyist is out.

LAMB: Yes, but the fact, though, is that you—everyone suffered because of the image that a few have abused this.

JONES: And that is what I was saying to you earlier. That with 435 members of the House, they are not people, members of Congress—all members of Congress should not be painted with that brush. And I think, whether people like it or not, it's the rule. And people are going to follow the rule.

LAMB: A question going back to I had earlier—or do you feel better now that these rules have been passed? As the chairman of the Ethics Committee, is it going to be harder or easier for you?

JONES: I don't know. And the fact that the rules have passed, they're the law. And as a chair of the Ethics Committee in conjunction with my colleague, we're required to follow the law. When I was a prosecutor, a prosecutor for eight years, the death penalty in Ohio was the law. I personally didn't necessarily believe that it was a deterrent, because of what I saw. But it was the law. I was required to seek the death penalty. I had discretion, but I was required to seek it. When I was a judge, I was required to impose it in cases. Whether I liked it or not, I have a job…

LAMB: How many times did you do it?

JONES: How many times did I seek the death penalty as a prosecutor? I can't even tell you.

LAMB: How many times …

JONES: As a judge…

LAMB: Yes.

JONES: …how many times did I impose the law? At least twice, maybe three times.

LAMB: Was that hard?

JONES: Absolutely. Absolutely. It's very easy to sit in a vacuum and say, he or she ought to be put to death, especially right now. Oh, it's very easy for people to say that. But when you're placed in the position to have that responsibility, it's a lot different. The times where I was required to impose the death penalty involved juries, because in Ohio when you have a death penalty case, you waive a jury. You get a three judge panel. And the three judges may—and I sat as a, in a—as a three-judge panel right after I had my son, on a case where a man had killed his three sons. And I was stunned that the lawyers would ask me to sit as one of those judges. But again, it goes back, and I will say, to my reputation for fairness, that I couldn't do that. And it was tough. Especially every day I went home and looked at that baby boy that I had just had and thought about it. It was made—the job was made easier by the mother of those three sons who said, no, don't put him to death. She said, "I want him to remember every day of his life what he did to my kids."

LAMB: Your son is a junior. You lost your husband a couple years ago.

JONES: And I specifically chose to call him Mervyn Leroy Jones, II. Because there is a tendency when somebody is a junior to label them as Junior, or nickname Junior. So, he's Mervyn Leroy Jones, II. He is—everybody knows and I talk to him, about him, as my man child. He is a senior in college. And I describe him as 6'4", 270 and gorgeous.

LAMB: Where is he?

JONES: At Hiram College. He is off this year from Hiram. He decided that he wanted to be a political science and communications major. So this, in 2006, the fall and this semester, he's been working at campaigns, doing signs, doing all kinds of things and attending the local community college. But he will go back to Hiram in the fall for one more year. He's a football player and he's a wonderful, wonderful—I know I'm prejudiced, but people tell me all the time what a great young man he is. I lost my husband in October of '03, right after the Congressional Black Caucus weekend. He had driven my parents and he to Washington for the weekend and drove home. And a couple of days later suffered a massive heart attack and died instantly. Married 27 years, and people always say, married 27 years? It was a great marriage. When we got married, I had just finished law school. He was the manager of his family tavern. And I'd never even thought about running for office. But the wonderful thing about my husband was that he was a guy who was not intimidated by a woman like me, who was very supportive. And I'll tell you, when I first decided to run for office, I went home and I said, "Mervyn, what do you think about me running for judge?" And his answer was, "Why not?" And so then I said, "Well, what do you think about me running as"—when I got married I decided I'd be Stephanie Jones. Stephanie Tubbs Jones is my maiden name. So I said, "Mervyn, what…"

LAMB: Stephanie Tubbs.

JONES: Tubbs is my maiden name. I apologize. Yes. "What do you think about me running as Stephanie Tubbs Jones?" "Whatever works, Jones." He called me Jones. Not Stephanie, but Jones. And so, I became Stephanie Tubbs Jones. And I chose it because I'd been Tubbs for 27 years, and people knew me as Tubbs, and they knew my family—my mother and my father—as Tubbs. It was a great marriage. He was supportive through everything that I did and was confident in himself. He was not in public office. He was not a high profile and….

LAMB: You're now a widow and single.


LAMB: And you're chairman of a committee and you're in the majority. You made a comment earlier that it's the first time in your life you've ever been in the majority. What did you mean by that?

JONES: Meaning I am an African American woman. Women are in the minority. African Americans are in the minority. But it was the first time I've been in the majority in my life. That's what I mean.

LAMB: You said back in May of last year that you were going to support Hillary Rodham Clinton.


LAMB: Has that changed in the last few days?

JONES: No. I'm a woman of my word. And in politics, all you have is your word. And I'm a supporter of Hillary Rodham Clinton.

LAMB: So, what do you think the impact on the African American community will be that you have Barack Obama running?

JONES: The fact that Barack Obama is running is significant. And it makes for an interesting race. It will require Barack Obama, as well as every other candidate, to tell the African American community what they will do to help improve the African American community. See, one of the things that is sometimes confused in campaigns, I tell people, I can talk about my agenda as a candidate in both the white community and African American community and say the same thing. Everybody wants to live in a decent neighborhood, crime-free, in decent housing. They want to send their children to quality schools in quality buildings. They want to have a job where they're esteemed, as well. They want to be able to have a business and their business is taken care of. A community is business, education and housing. Without any of those, a community suffers. People don't move to that community where there's not a good school system, where there's not good housing. Clearly, as an African American and an African American candidate, the African American community wants a commitment from a candidate, that that candidate will work to relieve or get rid of disparities. All the studies, every sociologist, all say that there's a disparity in health care, there's a disparity in education, there's a disparity in job opportunities, housing, financial opportunities. And we want them to be done. In the 109th Congress, the agenda of the Congressional Black Caucus was to try to relieve or get rid of the disparities that exist in this nation. And African Americans want those disparities out. And Hillary Rodham Clinton has to make those commitments. Barack Obama has to make those commitments—and anybody else who runs. I am excited about the presidential election, and I am committed to Hillary Rodham Clinton, but I'm excited to see Barack Obama out there, as well.

LAMB: Has he tried to get your vote yet?

JONES: No, we have not discussed that.

LAMB: Has Mrs. Clinton talked to you about your support?

JONES: Oh, we talked more than a year ago.

LAMB: And did you say then, I'm with you?

JONES: I said, Hillary, if you run, I'm with you. And we have a relationship. We have a history. When President Clinton first ran, they did the bus ride from the convention through the United States. And one of the first stops was the city of Cleveland. And at the time I was a Cuyahoga County prosecutor. And I was relieved from the strictures of being a judge where I couldn't support a candidate. I was pretty excited. Well, I could get on the stump and talk about a candidate that I was excited about and I did stump speeches for President and Mrs. Clinton. We left there and went to a church in Cleveland, and I was the person that was responsible for introducing all of the elected officials at the event. We were at a church in Cleveland called Olivet Institutional Baptist Church, one of the historical churches. The minister is Reverend Moss. And every time I see President Clinton we sit and laugh, and he always says, "I'll never forget that church in Cleveland. It was hotter than hell." And it was, because for some reason the air conditioning wasn't working that day. And, of course, with the candidate and his wife—in fact, the whole ticket, Al Gore and his wife, as well were there. And so, there was a ton of people, a ton of people in the church and it was hot, so he always remembers. But that—I have that relationship, and through the campaigns. I also sponsored after the 2004 election, a piece of legislation in the House that Hillary sponsored in the Senate called Count Every Vote and focusing in on what happened in Ohio in 2004, with the whole issues with regard to voting and people not being able to get to the ballot box, and provisional balloting and the whole [inaudible]. I embraced it and I'm committed. And I think she will make a great president.

LAMB: Seventy-one women in the House.


LAMB: What's the difference? When you came here nine years ago, how many were there?

JONES: Forty.

LAMB: So, what's changing in front of your eyes? You're now the chairman.

JONES: Well, the significance is, the speaker is a woman.

LAMB: What's the difference? What, what…?

JONES: For example, what other speaker have you seen get sworn and invite the children of the House to come to the well? To have—now, clearly, historically, members of Congress can bring their children under 12 on the floor of the House. And historically, everybody—even they bring their grandchildren, nieces, nephews. But no speaker, to my knowledge, has ever invited the children to come to the speaker's chair. Remember those pictures the day after the election, with Nancy Pelosi standing in front of—in the well, standing in the speaker's chair with children all around? It speaks to what she's all about. It speaks to the concern that she has for the children of America. People talk about it, but very few people actually implement it. Very few step up and say, OK, I'm going to invite the children there. People often talk—I use the expression that women tend to be more participatory managers. And by that I mean, you know what you want. You know what you're going to do. But you give people an opportunity to participate in the process of getting you there, to be included in the discussion. And women tend to do that. You will—I believe that the American public, now more than ever—I guess '92 was supposed to have been the year of the woman, when so many women were initially elected to the Senate and to the House—but have a faith and trust in women. Women are the caretakers of the nation. More women take care of children than men, historically and even up till today. Even working women, who have professions like I do, still have many of the same responsibilities that women who are not working outside the home have responsibilities. I use the expression, I tell people, as wonderful as my husband was, in my next life, when I come back I want to be a woman, I want to have a husband. But I want a wife. I need somebody to help me do some of the things that wives do for men who have the same job that I do.

LAMB: Like what?

JONES: Like take care of bills, take care of organizing the house, that take care of purchasing items, take care of—now, my husband was very—I didn't do yard work—I wasn't responsible for that—or just getting the—choosing the gardener, or choosing whoever it is. Things like that, you know. And understand, I don't diminish the role of a wife. There are a whole lot of people who wouldn't where they are today without their wives. In fact, I have been in professions that are historically male dominated. And the one thing I learned early on was get to know the wife. If I got to know the wife, I had the husband. And I used to go to judges' conferences. And keep in mind I was 31 and most of the judges were much older. And after a while, I would get tired of being around with judges. And the wives were going on a shopping trip, or they were doing something else, I'd go with them, to get to know them. Well, also because I like to shop. I mean, take nothing away from it. But it's the way. So, in my next life, I'm going to have a wife.

LAMB: Why the red? You wear a lot of red.

JONES: First of all, I'm a member of a national service sorority. It's called Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated. We are some 200,000 women internationally, all college educated and all committed to public service. And our colors are red and white. But I also wear red, because people tell me it's my color. They say—I wear red, I wear blue—but when I wear red, people always say, "That is your color." Also, red is also viewed as a power color. That you could be confident enough to wear red, bring attention to yourself, and keep on keeping on. But I like red.

LAMB: Go back to your chairmanship.


LAMB: Will you act as chairman any differently because you're a woman, or because you're an African American, or because you've only been there nine years? I mean, the Ethics Committee, we don't see much of them.

JONES: And that's the beauty of it. That's what it's supposed—we're supposed to function…

LAMB: Quietly?

JONES: Quietly. When I was prosecutor, I could have been a high-profile prosecutor, but I chose not to be. I told my staff that they will lose their job if they get on TV doing anything other than, this is the charge, this is the defendant and these are the allegations. No opinion about what that case is. I don't want to be a high-profile Ethics chair. I want to be a good, fair, tough Ethics chair. I want to do my job. If I do my job, you may not even see me. It's OK. It is—you don't gauge, or people should not choose to have or obtain success based on the misfortune of others. Now, that's not going to—that's not to say I'm going to shy away from doing my job. I know what my job is. And my job is to chair the Ethics Committee. And keep in mind, the Ethics Committee is not the prosecutor. It is not the Justice Department. It is not the local prosecutor. Our job is to try, as best as we can, to keep our members from violating the code of ethics, the standards of official conduct, our vows; to make sure they understand what they are, and to give them enough information or guidance so that they don't step out of bounds.

LAMB: Do you have—how does it work? Do you have the power to charge somebody in the House of Representatives with some wrongdoing? Or do you have to wait till somebody sends a request to you that they be looked at?

JONES: We are self-initiating. As chair and ranking member—and keep in mind that this is the only committee in the House of Representatives that has equal distribution of members, Republicans and Democrats. We have the ability to self-initiate. We have the ability to write a letter to a member saying, we've read so-and-so and so-and-so. Explain your conduct. We also have, each member of the committee in consultation with the other members of the committee, to decide to form an investigative subcommittee, based on information that is either we determine or somebody brings to us, to do an investigation. Once a subcommittee is—we determine to form a subcommittee, then we assign members of the Ethics Committee to have oversight over that investigative subcommittee. And we have staff that works with them to do that work.

LAMB: This is your seventh year.

JONES: This will be my seventh year as a member.

LAMB: A member of the Ethics Committee. Have you ever seen partisanship inside the Ethics Committee?

JONES: I will say to you that, in the six years that I've been on that subcommittee, we have worked very well together in a bipartisan manner. What I saw in terms of partisanship was after the decisions we made about Tom DeLay, and the decision by the Republican Party to remove the chair and two people from the committee, who I thought were some of the finest members of that committee.

LAMB: Who were they?

JONES: And they were Steve LaTourette, a former—he was the Lake County prosecutor with me when I was Cuyahoga County prosecutor.

LAMB: Republican.

JONES: Republican. And Kenny Hulshof, who was also a prosecutor. He was removed as well as Hefley, chair…

LAMB: Joel Hefley from Colorado?

JONES: Yes. And I enjoyed working with those three men on the Ethics Committee. And we did our job. And the shame of it was that they were being removed for doing their job.

LAMB: Do you have an agreement with Speaker Pelosi that she'll leave you alone?

JONES: We haven't even had that kind of discussion.

LAMB: The reason I ask is because of what happened when Speaker Hastert removed those people from the committee after the DeLay activities.

JONES: Knowing Nancy Pelosi as I do, I would not expect that I'd even have to have that discussion.

LAMB: How did she get to be speaker?

JONES: Worked. She endlessly, day and—I've worked, I've been part of a Nancy Pelosi team since I came to the House of Representatives. I worked on her election for whip. I worked on her election for leader. And I worked on her election to be speaker. When I first met Speaker Pelosi, I was like whew! She's high energy. She's very smart. She leaves no stone unturned. She counts well. And when you're running, you need to be able to count your vote. She is—when I talked about a participatory management style, in the course of the six years that I've been in—no, wow, excuse me, the eight years I've been in the House—she holds meetings to give people an opportunity to participate in the process. She feeds you. Women tend to feed you. I mean dinners, lunches, to give you an opportunity to let your hair done or be in a more relaxed situation and work. But she's a constant worker, and she's smart. And she knows how to bring people together to support her. And that's how she got to be speaker.

LAMB: There are more…

JONES: And she's a heck of a fundraiser.

LAMB: There are more African Americans in history as chairmen of the different committees.


LAMB: John Conyers of Judiciary. You've got…

JONES: There are five.

LAMB: Yes.

JONES: John Conyers of Judiciary…

LAMB: You know them?

JONES: Oh, I do, very well. John Conyers of Judiciary; Charlie Rangel of Ways and Means; Bennie Thompson of Homeland Security; Juanita Millender-McDonald, House Administration; and Stephanie Tubbs Jones, Ethics.

LAMB: What does that do for you?

JONES: Personally, it is…

LAMB: And Jim Clyburn, the whip, the…

JONES: OK. And Jim Clyburn is the majority whip, but he's not a chair. He's the majority whip. And then there are also, I think 10 African Americans who chair subcommittees. I can't name all 10 of the them. Maxine Waters chairs the Housing Subcommittee of Financial Services. And there are several others—Bobby Scott, Mel Watt, Corinne Brown…

LAMB: John Lewis?

JONES: Thank you. John Lewis is Oversight Subcommittee chair. I'm on his subcommittee, in fact. But I gave a speech in Hartford the other day in honor of Martin Luther King. And I said to people, what's happening in the House right now—African American chairs, a woman speaker, African American subcommittee chairs—is a realization of Dr. King's dream. Dr. King worked to see that people have the opportunity to succeed. He was political, though he never named his party. He was actively involved in voter registration and voter participation. If he were here today, he would be so proud of a Conyers and a Rangel and Nancy Pelosi. He'd mad at us about the Iraq war. But he'd be proud of the things that have happened in the political process. And the wonderful thing that you're seeing now is a realization of the commitment of African Americans to the Democratic Party. We have been some of the most faithful members of this party. And seniority matters. And when you are seeing the fruits of that commitment to the Democratic Party and the staying power coming to pay off for African Americans.

LAMB: What was your reaction when Alcee Hastings didn't get the Intelligence Committee?

JONES: I've known Alcee Hastings for a long time. Back when he was a judge and I was a judge, he and a number of my lawyer friends in Cleveland were colleagues. My reaction was Alcee Hastings' reaction. Alcee Hastings is a statesman. He is a wonderful, bright, intelligent man. He accepted this decision of Nancy Pelosi not to name him chair of Intelligence. And I accepted his acceptance of it. You will note very recently, however, that he's been named to an international committee as a representative. It's—he was most recently the chair of parliamentarians, the first African American to be the chair of an organization of parliamentarians internationally—the first American to hold that post. But he's been recently named to an international committee. Alcee will be fine.

LAMB: Did he get a bad deal when he was impeached and convicted and thrown off the bench?

JONES: You know, I don't know all the wherewithal of that. He believes he got a bad deal. But you know what the beauty of Alcee Hastings is? Life goes on. God closes some doors and he opens others. He could have taken that situation and said, you know, got a raw deal; I'm done with it. But Alcee's smarter than that, and that's what I love about him. He said, OK, done with that. I'm going to do something else. And he has not looked back.

LAMB: You mentioned about the Iraq war. And you also mentioned about Martin Luther King, and you're supporting Hillary Rodham Clinton. Is that going to be a problem for her and for you, that she voted for that war in the beginning? Or voted at least for the resolution?

JONES: I don't believe it's going to be a problem for her moving forward. If it were going to be a problem for her, it's going to be a problem for a whole lot of people, because a lot of people voted for the war. I think that all can be reassured by the fact that we were not given all the information we needed with regard to making those decisions. And people can make bad judgments and still be successful, or make a bad decision and still be successful. And Hillary and all of those who voted for it can say justifiably that, that based on what I knew at the time, I made this decision. But now I know better, and I can move on.

LAMB: As the chairman of the Ethics Committee, will you have to change any way you live?

JONES: I have tried to live an ethical life in public office, and those of us who go to church and are Christians say we all have sinned and fallen short. You know, but, of course, as chair of Ethics people are going to be watching me. So, I'm going to pay closer attention to what I do.

LAMB: What's ethics? What is ethical?

JONES: From my perspective, it is engaging in conduct that is morally correct, that avoids an appearance of impropriety, that is within the bounds of the expectations of the people who put you in office and those that you engage with. They expect that you are going to not engage in conduct that would shine a poor light on the job or office that you hold.

LAMB: So, where do you get your authority for—I don't mean your political authority, but where do you—who are your idols when it comes to ethics?

JONES: Andrew and Mary Tubbs, my parents.

LAMB: Who were they?

JONES: My father was a skycap, carried bags for United Airlines for 40 years. And my mother, in her last employment she was a factory worker for American Greeting Cards. Both from Alabama. My father came to Cleveland after getting out of the Army, on his way to California. My mother came to Akron in the migration of African Americans from the South to the North for a better job. They met up, they got married, and they were married for 56 years. And…

LAMB: Are they both gone?

JONES: My dad's still living. My mom passed 90 days after my husband. Yeah. There was—I don't beat my friends over the head with my Bible, but I have a deep and abiding faith. And I know that only through my belief in God was I able to manage through those months and days.

LAMB: How many other Tubbs were there?

JONES: I have two sisters. One of them recently passed in January of last year with kidney failure.

LAMB: That's three blows in…

JONES: Three blows within about two or three years, yes. Pretty tough. And I have another sister who lives in Cleveland. She is the chief of staff for the mayor of Warrensville Heights, Ohio. So, there were three girls. And my mother and father were just wonderful, wonderful people. I go to Bethany Baptist Church in Cleveland, Ohio. And I've been a member of Bethany all of my life, cradle roll. My mother sang in the choir, she was a deaconess. My father sang in the male chorus. I had a wonderful, wonderful childhood. I grew up in Glenville neighborhood, home of Troy Smith and the Glenville High School football players, and Troy Smith, the Heisman Trophy winner and quarterback. Out of the community that I grew up, former mayors grew up there, former judges, current judges. And it now is a struggling community, because cities are struggling. Under most recent administrations, urban agendas have not been at the top of the list.

LAMB: When you see people make mistakes, what is your sense of why they do it, especially in and around the Congress? I mean, we saw a lot of it over the last five or six years.

JONES: Some do it willingly. And they know what the rules are, and they think that they can engage in conduct and in violation of rules and get away with it. Some do it out of ignorance. And I say that, because they don't know better. And part of what we're going to do is to make sure that members understand the rules, and that they are compliant with the rules.

LAMB: How do you do that?

JONES: Good education. You can't mandate that members, so we mandate that staff take ethics classes. And we're going to get information out to them. Keep in mind that part of the role of the Ethics Committee is to give advice and counsel. And I'm going to, and we're going to continue to encourage members to get advice and counsel on when they're not sure about what's going on, and to make sure that their staff has advice and counsel. It is—being in public life is not—it's a wonderful opportunity, and I love my 25 years. But there are also people who are going to come at you, who know what they want or ask is inappropriate. And that the member or the elected official needs to be able to go back at them and say, I'm not doing it. I can't do it. And that is—and most do that. But I also have to say that, when we did the Traficant case and…

LAMB: Former congressman from Toledo.

JONES: Former congressman…

LAMB: In jail now.

JONES: From Youngstown.

LAMB: I'm sorry, Youngstown.

JONES: And in jail. Some of the conduct that he engaged in, 30 years ago was acceptable conduct. I mean, people used to help a politician out—they'd go over to your house, or whatever, and do whatever it was. And it was part and parcel, but it's not anymore. I mean, if you call—if you were to talk to elected officials from back in the days, using the expression, 50 years ago, you'd be amazed what people did on behalf of a candidate or for a candidate, but it's not acceptable anymore. You can't engage in—you can't require somebody to build your house or work on your house or fix your car or fix your boat, or any of that. It's not acceptable. But I don't make any excuses for public officials or my colleagues. We are—we have to toe the line. That's our job. That's our responsibility. We've chosen public life, and public life requires more. But I also think that the public has to recognize that all elected officials are human. Sometimes we try and elevate them to a course or a loftiness that's unacceptable. I mean, not unacceptable, but that you can't expect. People make mistakes. And we have to look at people's mistakes. There are some that are at this end of the spectrum, and there are some at this end of the spectrum. And just as we want to apply a penalty for conduct, the penalty should fit the conduct.

LAMB: Stephanie Tubbs Jones, chairman of the Ethics Committee in the House, we're out of time and thank you very much.

JONES: It's been 57 minutes? I survived?

LAMB: [laughter]

JONES: Thank you very much for having me. I appreciate it.

"Q&A: Stephanie Tubbs Jones." C-SPAN video, 1:00:36. Jan. 18, 2007.