Groups want House to re-start Waters ethics probe

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY JERRY SEPER

A coali­tion of re­form groups wants the House Com­mit­tee on Ethics to re­sume its work on the long-pend­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Rep. Max­ine Waters and pro­vide a pub­lic ac­count­ing of the sta­tus of the case against the Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat.

In a July 8 state­ment, the Cam­paign Legal Cen­ter, Com­mon Cause, the Cit­i­zens for Re­spon­si­bil­ity and Ethics in Wash­ing­ton (CREW), Democ­racy 21, the League of Women Vot­ers and Pub­lic Cit­i­zen said no pub­lic no­tice of the sta­tus of the 2-year-old case has been pro­vided “since the abrupt and un­ex­plained can­cel­la­tion” of a sched­uled hear­ing in Novem­ber.

In a letter to Rep. Jo Bon­ner, Alabama Repub­li­can and ethics com­mit­tee chair­man, and its rank­ing Demo­crat, Linda T. Sanchez of Cal­i­for­nia, the coali­tion said the “un­ex­plained de­lay un­der­mines con­fi­dence in the ethics process and is un­fair to all par­ties in­volved in the case.”

“Your com­mit­tee set up an in­ves­ti­ga­tory sub­com­mit­tee last Oc­to­ber, but out­side of the abrupt can­cel­la­tion of a hear­ing, there has been no men­tion of the case,” the coali­tion said. “Still no hear­ings have been held, and [. . . ] there is no in­di­ca­tion about how or when the com­mit­tee plans to re­solve this case.

“We re­new our re­quest that the com­mit­tee is­sue a pub­lic state­ment re­gard­ing whether it has re­sumed work on this case or, if not, when it in­tends to do so, and when the com­mit­tee an­tic­i­pates com­plet­ing its ad­ju­di­ca­tion of this case,” it said.

Mrs. Waters is ac­cused of vi­o­lat­ing House rules by in­ter­ven­ing on be­half of a mi­nor­i­ty­owned bank with ties to her fam­ily.

Ini­tially, House in­ves­ti­ga­tors said she “im­prop­erly” ex­erted in­flu­ence to help bail out a bank in which her hus­band held stock. They said she vi­o­lated con­flictof-in­ter­est rules by re­peat­edly lob­by­ing the Trea­sury Depart­ment for bailout money on be­half of OneUnited in which her hus­band held as much as $350,000 in stock as of June 2008. The bank re­ceived a $12 mil­lion slice of the tax­payer-funded Wall Street bailout.

Her hus­band, Sid­ney Wil­liams, served on OneUnited’s board of direc­tors from Jan­uary 2004 un­til April 2008. The gov­ern­ment’s takeover of Fan­nie Mae and Fred­die Mac cut the value of his hold­ings in half and ul­ti­mately threat­ened to make them “worth­less,” ac­cord­ing to in­ves­ti­ga­tors.

Mrs. Waters has fiercely pro­claimed her in­no­cence and con­demned a de­ci­sion by the ethics com­mit­tee to put off in­def­i­nitely a hear­ing into charges against her. In a blis­ter­ing state­ment in Novem­ber, she said the panel had shown a “com­plete disre- gard for due process and fair­ness” by de­lay­ing her case. She also as­serted that “new ev­i­dence” had been given to the com­mit­tee sup­port­ing her po­si­tion that her ac­tions were aimed at mi­nor­ity in­sti­tu­tions in gen­eral and never in­tended to aid any in­di­vid­ual firm.

The ethics com­mit­tee post­poned a long-sched­uled Nov. 29 hear­ing in the case with­out ex­pla­na­tion. The panel’s se­nior Demo­cratic and Repub­li­can mem­bers said at the time that the session was be­ing put off be­cause of un­spec­i­fied new ev­i­dence that had sur­faced.

That same month, the Associated Press re­ported that a newly dis­cov­ered email writ­ten by Mrs. Waters’ chief of staff in Septem­ber 2008 may have thrown a cloud over the case.

The email, writ­ten by Mikael Moore, who also is Mrs. Waters’ grand­son, went to staff aides, who were writ­ing leg­is­la­tion that be­came the Ge­orge W. Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion’s con­tro­ver­sial $700 bil­lion Trou­bled As­set Re­lief Pro­gram (TARP) bailout for banks, in­surance com­pa­nies, auto com­pa­nies and other fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions. The email does not men­tion OneUnited and says the con­gress­woman was “un­der the ex­plicit im­pres­sion” that pro­vi­sions af­fect­ing small and mi­nor­ity-owned banks were still in the bailout bill.

“If there is any ma­te­rial or tech­ni­cal changes to the lan­guage as last agreed upon, please alert me as soon as pos­si­ble so that Rep. Waters has an op­por­tu­nity to weigh in,” Mr. Moore wrote.

Noth­ing’s hap­pened to her yet: Rep. Max­ine Waters

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