Rep. Waters demands disclosure in ethics case

AP News
Posted: Jun 07, 2012 6:01 PM
Rep. Waters demands disclosure in ethics case

Rep. Maxine Waters and dozens of House colleagues demanded Thursday that the House Ethics Committee make public an outside counsel's findings that her rights were not violated in her ethics case.

The committee on Wednesday cited the counsel's findings in rejecting the California Democrat's contention that she wasn't allowed to properly present her case. The decision cleared the way for an eventual ruling on whether Waters improperly tried to steer federal money to a bank where her husband is a shareholder.

Waters has denied trying to help OneUnited Bank, where her husband owns stock, saying she tried to assist an association of minority-owned banks that included OneUnited. Institutions in the association were in financial trouble because of investments in troubled mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Washington attorney Billy Martin was hired by the committee to investigate its own conduct because of Waters' allegations, leaks of investigative materials to the news media and allegations of improper communications between committee investigators and Republican committee members. All five Republicans and the top Democrat on the ethics panel bowed out of the case and replacements were named to continue the investigation.

"The committee must immediately release Mr. Martin's report, which forms the basis of their determination to dismiss Representative Waters' due process concerns," the lawmakers wrote Acting Chairman Robert Goodlatte, R-Va., and the acting top Democrat, John Yarmuth of Kentucky.

"Without the public, the Congress, and Representative Waters being able to review the findings included in this report, the integrity of the committee's process will further be called into question," the letter said.

The letter, signed by 69 House members including Waters, noted that Martin is authorized to receive up to $800,000 in taxpayers' money for his services.

The ethics committee had no immediate comment.

While rejecting Waters' allegations of unfair treatment, the committee did agree that there were unauthorized leaks _ probably by a former committee staff member who refused to cooperate with Martin _ and by Waters herself in a 2010 news conference where she declared her innocence.

The committee also said staff investigators did have communications with committee members of only one political party but added this did not have an effect on the charges brought against Waters.

OneUnited eventually received $12 million in bailout money, but federal officials have said Waters was not involved in the decision.

Waters would be in line, by seniority, to be either chairwoman or ranking Democrat on the Financial Services Committee next year, depending on which party controls the House. Unless the ethics case is resolved this year, however, the 11-term lawmaker's status would be uncertain.