President Bush made his first nomination for director of the Office of Government Ethics yesterday, asking the Senate to confirm Washington lawyer Stephen D. Potts for the post.
At the same time, officials said that Bush has abandoned a campaign pledge to name a separate senior counselor to the president for ethics because White House counsel C. Boyden Gray argued his office should perform that role.
Potts, 59, is a longtime acquaintance of Bush and was recommended by acting Deputy Attorney General William P. Barr, a former law partner of Potts. He has been in private law practice since 1961 and apparently has not been involved in partisan politics.
Potts has undergraduate and law degrees from Vanderbilt University and practiced law in Tennessee and in Washington. His resume shows no prior government service outside the military.
Potts would technically succeed Frank Q. Nebeker, who stayed in the post in an acting position until late last summer, when he was appointed a federal judge. The president had originally intended to nominate Paul Pressler of Houston, a fundamentalist religious activist, but dropped that plan when White House officials became concerned over what they described as potential ethics problems that showed up in the FBI background checks of Pressler.
During his campaign for president, Bush pledged to expand and enhance the powers of the ethics office, promising that it would not be a "stepchild" in his administration. He also pledged to appoint a "senior counselor to the president" who would advise him on ethical issues. But the ethics office was one of the last major posts in the administration to get a nominee and officials said the president has abandoned the senior counselor plan.