Ethics panel extends contract for Waters inquiry

AP News
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Posted: Dec 16, 2011 4:25 PM
Ethics panel extends contract for Waters inquiry

The House Ethics Committee said Friday it has extended for seven months a contract with an outside counsel hired to investigate allegations against Rep. Maxine Waters and the committee handling of that investigation.

The ethics panel said the new contract with Washington attorney Billy Martin would continue through July 31, 2012. Martin was retained in July to investigate the Waters case, with the contract set to expire at the end of the year.

The investigation centers on whether Waters tried to aid a troubled bank, Boston-based OneUnited, where her husband owned stock. The focus is on a meeting the California Democrat requested between Treasury Department officials and representatives of an association representing minority-owned banks, including OneUnited.

OneUnited received $12 million in federal bailout money in December 2008, but Waters says she was trying to help all minority-owned banks that were in trouble because of their investments in collapsing mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

In 2009 the ethics committee issued charges that Waters' efforts were aimed at OneUnited in violation of House rules, but a trial scheduled for November of that year was postponed because of partisan divisions within the committee and questions about how two committee attorneys, who were later suspended, had handled the case.

She has demanded that the case be dismissed, saying partisanship has made it impossible to give her a fair proceeding.

Waters' spokesman issued a statement that "the House and the American people should be concerned, as we are, that the extent of the committee's misconduct and the erosion of Rep. Waters' due process rights may be so pervasive, that it may take special counsel more than a year to review the extent of the committee's wrongdoing.

Martin was hired both to look into committee conduct and the charges against Waters. The committee said he had received about $300,000 under the initial contract and that expenditures between $50,000 and $500,000 had been authorized for the new contract.