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Entries in Ethics Committee (6)

Friday
Sep212012

Maxine Waters Did Not Violate House Rules, Ethics Investigation Finds

Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The House Ethics committee announced Friday that Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., did not violate House rules after a three-year investigation examining her office’s assistance to a bank tied to her husband during the depths of the financial crisis. But a special investigator says her chief of staff, who is also her grandson, may have acted improperly in violation of House rules.

Waters, a senior member of the House Financial Services Committee, was accused of improperly using her influence in 2008 to help secure the TARP funds for the struggling bank. Throughout the drawn-out process, she steadfastly denied any wrongdoing.

The allegations stem from a meeting that Waters’ chief of staff requested with then Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson at the 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.

Waters and her husband sat behind their grandson, Mikael Moore, at the hearing, although neither spoke before the committee.

Former special prosecutor Billy Martin said his investigation “found no evidence in the record to support that [Waters'] phone call to arrange the meeting violated any House rule or any other standard of conduct.”

Martin, who was hired as outside council to examine whether the committee should empanel an investigative subcommittee, questioned the credibility of Moore’s testimony. He said evidence proved that once Waters learned of OneUnited’s request for special treatment, she told Moore not to continue to work the matter. Still, he said that Moore disobeyed that order and continued to intervene on behalf of the bank.

Martin recommended that Moore receive a letter of reproval that he brought discredit to the House, although the committee must still rule on those recommendations.

Today, Moore continued to attempt to defend himself against any accusations of intentional wrongdoing, but expressed remorse for the entire ordeal.

“My heavy heart really is around the idea that whether it’s a letter of reproval [sic] or someone just saying that the idea that I knowingly and intentionally used the congresswoman’s office for personal gain, that I disrespected the House, is a very difficult pill to swallow,” Moore said. “This has been a tough process for me and for the congresswoman, for her office, for her constituents. I am glad, excited, encouraged that it’s coming to an end.”

On financial disclosure forms, Waters and her husband 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. OneUnited received $12 million in TARP funds.

Moore has denied knowing that his grandfather was invested in the bank, although Martin said there were “inconsistencies” with his testimony. Martin said he “found Mr. Moore’s denial incredible and doubted the credibility of his testimony in general.”

Waters, an 11-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,” and it informed her that the Sixth Amendment does not apply to committee proceedings. The committee previously dismissed Waters’ charge that “inappropriate and/or racially insensitive remarks may have biased the investigation” into the matter.

Waters is running for a 12th term in what ABC News rates as a solid Democratic district -- part of Los Angeles and its environs -- 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.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jun072012

Maxine Waters Continues to Question Misconduct by Ethics Committee

Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Within 24 hours of the House Ethics Committee’s dismissal of her assertions that her constitutional rights were violated, Rep. Maxine Waters began to fight back.

Waters is accused of steering $12 million in TARP funds to a minority-owned bank with ties to her husband in 2008. The ethics committee’s trial was to begin in November 2010 but was delayed after the California Democrat claimed her rights -- racial insensitivity, leaked documents, too much time until trial -- had been violated.

On Thursday, Waters demanded that the committee release a report issued by Billy Martin, the special counsel hired to investigate allegations of staff misconduct at the committee.

“The Committee must immediately release Mr. Martin’s report, which forms the basis of their determination to dismiss Representative Waters’ due process concerns,” Waters, D-Calif., writes in a letter signed by 68 of her Democratic colleagues in the House of Representatives. “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 committee ultimately hired Martin, an attorney with Dorsey & Whitney, as an outside counsel to investigate Waters’ allegations regarding the deprivation of her due process rights. His past clients include the parents of Chandra Levy, Monica Lewinsky’s mother, former Sen. Larry Craig and NFL quarterback Michael Vick.

Waters also notes that releasing the report is necessary to restore public confidence in the ethics committee and to afford Waters the opportunity to respond. She complains that despite the committee’s concession that a former staff member invoked the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and that staff made “inappropriate and/or racially insensitive remarks” about the congresswoman, the committee still dismissed her allegations that her constitutional rights had been violated.

“Considering that it was the conduct of the Committee that necessitated Mr. Martin’s investigation in the first place, which came at the cost of up to $800,000 to the U.S. taxpayer, we feel that it is absolutely essential that the Committee move forward with absolute transparency and release Mr. Martin’s report,” she writes.

A senior aide to Waters revealed that the California Democrat personally collected each signature over the past 24 hours. So far the ethics committee has not commented on her letter.

Wednesday the panel released its letter to Waters, paving the way for the full ethics investigation to continue. Waters, a senior member of the House Financial Services Committee, still 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.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jun232011

Florida Lawmaker Faces Ethics Probe over Alleged Sexual Harassment

AlceeHastings [dot] House [dot] gov(WASHINGTON) -- Just when House Democrats thought they had the sexting scandal involving former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner behind them, another potential mess has surfaced.

There were reports Wednesday that Florida Congressman Alcee Hastings has been accused of sexual harassment by a former female staffer and that the 74-year-old lawmaker faces a House ethics probe over the charges.

The conservative group Judicial Watch, which filed a lawsuit against Hastings on behalf of Winsome Packer, said that the Office of Congressional Ethnics is well into an inquiry about the matter and will decide whether to recommend a further investigation by the House Ethics Committee.

Packer has accused Hastings of subjecting her to "unwelcome sexual advances" and "unwelcome touching" while she worked on the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, which the congressman chaired.

She also claims that Hastings and staff directors threatened to retaliate against her if she reported the alleged sexual harassment.

Responding to the lawsuit when it was filed last March, Hastings asserted that it was filled with "inaccuracies" and said in a statement, "I have never sexually harassed anyone.  In fact, I am insulted that these ludicrous allegations are being made against me.  When all the facts are known in this case, the prevailing sentiment will be, 'How bizarre!'"

Nonetheless, Hastings has had previous troubles involving ethics charges.  In 1989, he was impeached and convicted by the Florida Senate for bribery and perjury, losing his job as a U.S. District Judge.  During a criminal trial in the same case, Hastings won acquittal when his alleged co-conspirator refused to testify against him.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jun082011

Rep. Weiner Standing His Ground Amidst Calls to Resign

Alex Wong/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Pressure is mounting on Rep. Anthony Weiner to step down after his confession that he had been sending lewd photos of himself and texts to women via Twitter -- and that he has lied about it.

The New York Democrat is finding few who are willing to publicly come to his defense, even in his own party.

"Lying is unforgivable.  Lying publicly about something like this is unforgivable and he should resign," former Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine, D-Va., told CBS on Tuesday.

"I know Congressman Weiner.  And I wish there was some way I could defend him -- but I can't," Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., said.  Reid added that if Weiner called him for advice, he'd tell him to "call someone else."

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's call for an ethics committee investigation is not satisfying some Republicans who are calling for an immediate resignation.

Weiner, however, maintains that he will hang onto his job as U.S. Representative for New York's 9th congressional district.

"I am not resigning," a defiant Weiner said told reporters in Queens, New York Tuesday evening.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus became the first official to call on Weiner to resign after Weiner's mea culpa press conference on Monday.

"Congressman Weiner's actions and deception are unacceptable and he should resign.  We do not need an investigation to know he lied and acted inappropriately, we need a resignation," Priebus said in a written statement.

"Either Leader Pelosi and DNC Chair Wasserman Schultz believe members of Congress are held to a different set of standards or they believe these actions demand his resignation," he added.

Although Weiner's actions would be considered by many to be lewd and inappropriate, the major question for the ethics committee is whether he broke the rules of the House of Representatives.

Blake Chisam, former staff director of the ethics committee, says that if Weiner used his government computer to send the messages, he could be in trouble, even though some incidental personal use is permitted.

"You know the rules in the House can often be a labyrinth," Chisam told ABC News, adding that the questions of whether sending pornography or lewd photographs will be difficult to argue as "incidental."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jan052011

Alabama Ethics Reform '75 Percent' Improved

Photo Courtesy - Governor.Alabama.Gov(MONTGOMERY, Ala.) – After the indictment of four Alabama state legislators and three gaming lobbyists last fall, a new package of reforms represent a significant improvement on the state’s old lobbying laws, say observers.

When Alabama Governor Bob Riley called a special session of the state legislature after the October indictments, it was to enact what he hoped would be the toughest ethics laws in the nation.

The resulting package of reforms were passed in December and became law this week. There were enough exceptions added to the package by lawmakers, however, and enough loopholes in the language that the state legislature will have to revisit the issue when it reconvenes in March.

Ellen Miller of the Washington, D.C.-based good government group The Sunlight Foundation said, "You have to start someplace.” "[Alabama] is not leading the way or blazing new paths," Miller added, "but it is a first step."

Hugh Evans, general counsel for the Alabama Ethics Commission, a state regulatory agency with newly expanded powers, said that Alabama is now "at 75 percent of where we want to be."

"When you have so many different entities and influences on a particular bill, I don't think you ever get to 100 percent of where you want to," said Evans. "Everyone offered an amendment and so it was an amalgamation."

Under Alabama's old rules, lobbyists could spend up to $250 a day on an individual legislator without disclosure, or more than $90,000 a year. The lax restrictions led to cozy relationships between lawmakers and lobbyists.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Dec012010

Rep. Waters Questions Ethics of Ethics Process

Photo Courtesy -- Getty Images(WASHINGTON) – Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) reacted to reports that two top attorneys assigned to work the ethics case against her have been dismissed.

In a statement Wednesday, Waters said it has not been made clear to her why the Ethics Committee placed two members of counsel on administrative leave.

“We don’t know the specifics, but we know that the integrity of the Committee and its investigative process have been compromised," Waters said. “The longer the Committee withholds the details of its actions, the more the public’s confidence in the House ethics process is eroded.”

Waters said she was notified after their removal that the case against her would be delayed and that she believed something had “gone wrong in the ethics process.”

“From the beginning, I have been concerned with the Committee’s unsupported conclusions, often contradictory arguments, and unfounded negative inferences,” Waters said.  “It now seems that these concerns were justified, as the Committee’s sanctioning of its own attorneys is an acknowledgement of flaws and failures in the Committee’s processes and handling of my case.”

Waters is under investigation by the Ethics Committee after she was accused of violating House ethics rules by intervening with regulators on behalf of a bank in which she had substantial investments.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio