Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones; Democrat Led Ethics Committee

Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones chaired the platform committee at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.
Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones chaired the platform committee at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. (2004 Photo By Bill O'leary -- The Washington Post)
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By Matt Schudel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 21, 2008

Stephanie Tubbs Jones, 58, a Cleveland Democrat who was in her fifth term in the U.S. House of Representatives and was chairwoman of the House Ethics Committee, died Aug. 20 at Huron Hospital in East Cleveland, Ohio. She had a brain hemorrhage.

She was taken to the hospital Tuesday night after being found unconscious at the wheel of her car in a Cleveland suburb. She was taken off life support Wednesday afternoon.

Rep. Tubbs Jones was the first African American woman elected to Congress from Ohio and was a rising force in national Democratic politics. She spoke at the Democratic National Convention in 2000, chaired the platform committee at the party's 2004 convention and was a co-chairman of Massachusetts Sen. John F. Kerry's presidential campaign four years ago.

In January 2005, she lodged a formal objection to the certification of the 2004 presidential election in Ohio, alleging that electoral irregularities allowed President Bush to win the state by 119,000 votes. After a two-hour debate in the House, the original results were upheld.

Last year, Rep. Tubbs Jones became an early supporter of the presidential bid of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and was one of her party's superdelegates.

Rep. Tubbs Jones, who was also a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, was considered one of the more reliably liberal voices in Congress. She had a lifetime voting rating of 98 out of 100 on the American Civil Liberties Union's Congressional Scorecard. In 2003, she was one of 11 House members to oppose a resolution supporting the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

She was co-sponsor of the Child Abuse Protection and Enforcement Act, which was signed into law in 2000 by President Bill Clinton and gave the criminal justice system greater powers to track and prosecute child abusers. Her other leading concerns included education, limits on predatory lending and protections for small businesses, credit unions and the coal industry. She also sponsored several unsuccessful gun-control efforts.

"We regulate cribs, food and prescription drugs," Rep. Tubbs Jones said in 1999. "We should regulate the manufacture and the use of guns."

In 2006, she was on a House panel that investigated allegations of sexual misconduct by Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) in a scandal involving congressional pages. Later that year, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) named Rep. Tubbs Jones chairwoman of the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, popularly known as the Ethics Committee.

Critics said Rep. Tubbs Jones had engaged in questionable ethical practices herself. In 2004, she had to repay thousands of dollars after the Federal Election Commission found that she had spent campaign funds on personal expenses. She also came under scrutiny for accepting more than 75 trips from lobbyists between 2000 and 2006.

She said she had "no apologies for the trips that I have taken during my tenure in Congress."

Stephanie Tubbs was born Sept. 10, 1949, in Cleveland and was the youngest of three daughters. Her father was an airport skycap, her mother a cook. She graduated from Cleveland's Case Western Reserve University and, in 1974, from the university's law school.

She began her career as a legal counsel with Cleveland's sewer district before becoming an assistant prosecutor and, later, a trial lawyer with the city's Equal Opportunity Commission. She was elected to a municipal judgeship at the age of 31 and later became the first African American woman to serve on Ohio's Court of Common Pleas.

When she was elected prosecutor of Cuyahoga County in 1990, she was the first woman to hold the job and the first African American to be a chief prosecutor in state history. When she was elected to Congress in 1998, she won 79 percent of the vote in Ohio's heavily Democratic 11th District. She never received less than 76 percent in four subsequent elections.

Rep. Tubbs Jones was known for her colorful wardrobe and for her love of cooking and family entertaining.

Her husband of 27 years, Mervyn L. Jones Sr., died in 2003.

Survivors include a son, Mervyn L. Jones II of Cleveland; and two sisters.

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