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Ethics Committee to Hold Public Trial for Maxine Waters Friday

Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The ethics investigation of Maxine Waters, the California representative accused of steering $12 million in TARP funds to a minority-owned bank with ties to her husband, could come to an end soon.

Today the House committee on Ethics announced it will hold a public hearing for Waters on Friday, a culmination of an investigation that has lasted more than two years.

Waters, a senior member of the House Financial Services Committee, stands accused of improperly using her influence in 2008 to help secure the TARP funds for the struggling bank. She has steadfastly denied any wrongdoing.

A spokesman for Waters did not immediately respond to a request for comment after news broke that the committee will hold a public trial Friday.

The charges stem from a meeting that Waters' congressional office requested with then-Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson at start of the financial crisis in September 2008. Waters and Paulson did not attend the meeting, but senior Treasury officials and members of the National Bankers Association (NBA), a trade organization representing over 100 minority-owned firms, did. An ethics report found that at that meeting and in follow-up conversations "the discussion centered on a single bank -- OneUnited," where Waters' husband was a board member from 2004 to 2008.

On financial disclosure forms, the couple reported owning $352,089.64 worth of stock at OneUnited in June 2008. By the end of September, the value of the stock had plummeted to $175,000, but what remained was salvaged thanks to a portion of the $700 billion Wall Street bailout.

Waters, an eleven-term lawmaker, was set to have a public trial Nov. 29, 2010, but it was cancelled after she raised allegations regarding the deprivation of her due process rights. Last June, the committee told Waters that the only due process she is entitled to under House and committee rules “is notice and the opportunity to be heard.” It also informed Waters that the Sixth Amendment does not apply to committee proceedings, and she is not entitled to a speedy trial like a criminal defendant.

The committee dismissed Waters’ charge that “inappropriate and/or racially insensitive remarks may have biased the investigation” into the matter. Even though the committee says the investigation “revealed some evidence of insensitive remarks by a former committee staff member,” outside counsel and the committee agreed that “any such insensitivity did not affect any decision-making of the Members of the Committee.” As for whether confidential information was leaked by ethics committee staff, investigators found “three instances in which confidential committee information was disclosed,” with one example attributed to the congresswoman herself during a news conference on Aug. 13, 2010, when she “disclosed documents containing significant evidentiary information.”

The committee’s review did not uncover the identity of the person or persons responsible for the other leaks, although one witness, described as “a former member of the staff of the committee,” invoked the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when responding to questions regarding the leaked documents.

Waters is running for a twelfth term in what ABC News rates as a solid Democrat district in a rematch against her primary opponent, fellow Democrat Bob Flores, after defeating him 65 to 34 last June. She currently represents the 35th congressional district, but redistricting placed her in California’s newly drawn 43rd district.

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