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Entries in House Ethics Committee (7)

Wednesday
Jun062012

Maxine Waters Ethics Probe Continues

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, is set to resume.

Wednesday the House Committee on Ethics released a letter to Waters, dismissing the embattled Democrat’s allegations that her constitutional rights had been violated.

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.

After Waters raised allegations during the 111th Congress that her constitutional rights -- length of the investigation, racially insensitive remarks, leaking of confidential documents -- were violated during the committee’s first investigation, the House Ethics Committee cancelled a public trial for Waters that had been set for Nov. 29, 2010.

The committee ultimately hired Dorsey & Whitney attorney Billy Martin, whose past clients include the parents of Chandra Levy, Monica Lewinsky’s mother, Sen. Larry Craig and NFL quarterback Michael Vick, as an outside counsel to investigate of Waters’ allegations regarding the deprivation of her due process rights.

In the letter released Wednesday, Reps. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., and John Yarmuth, D-Ky., the respective acting chairman and ranking member working on the matter after five Republicans and the top Democrat on the panel withdrew themselves from the case, told Waters that the only due process she is entitled to under House and committee rules “is notice and the opportunity to be heard.”

The committee dismissed the charge that “inappropriate and/or racially insensitive remarks may have biased the investigation” into the matter. The committee says the investigation “revealed some evidence of insensitive remarks by a former committee staff member,” but outside counsel and the committee agreed that “any such insensitivity did not affect any decision-making of the Members of the Committee.”

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.

As for whether confidential information was leaked, the letter also disclosed that 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.

A spokesman for Waters did not immediately respond to a request for comment reacting to the committee’s letter.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jan112012

Rep. Alcee Hastings Ethics Investigation Extended

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- While a federal lawsuit continues, the House Ethics Committee announced Wednesday it will not conduct a full-blown investigation into allegations that Florida Democratic Rep. Alcee Hastings sexually harassed a former employee and retaliated against her after she complained about it.

Reps. Jo Bonner and Linda Sanchez, the chairman and ranking member of the Ethics Committee, issued a joint statement Wednesday, expressing that while they will not impanel an investigative subcommittee, they will continue to review the case and gather additional information necessary to complete the review. The lawmakers have already once extended the committee’s review of the matter.

In a detailed statement on his website, Hastings took Wednesday’s news as a win, and emphasized that he “unequivocally” denies the allegations, which he called “completely false.”

The alleged harassment and retaliation began in 2008, according a public interest group that investigates government corruption, Judicial Watch, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of Winsome Packer.

Parker, a female employee who says she was repeatedly subjected to “unwelcome sexual advances,” “unwelcome touching” and retaliation, worked with Hastings when he was chairman of the United States Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission.  

Packer experienced, “insomnia, anxiety, depression, high-blood pressure, and developed symptoms of coronary artery disease,” as a direct result of the alleged sexual harassment, according to Judicial Watch, and at one point symptoms became so severe that she collapsed and was rushed to the emergency room.  Packer was subsequently prescribed medication and is under the care of a physician because of the severity of her heart problems.  

Hastings has repeatedly denied accusations, calling the allegations “ludicrous” and a “lie.” When news broke last spring that a lawsuit was filed U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, he vowed to be vindicated.

The Office of Congressional Ethics voted last September for the Ethics Committee to conduct a probe of Hastings. Further review of the ethics referral does not necessarily indicate the judgment of the committee whether any violation has actually occurred, and Hastings' political opponents are likely to cry foul over the delay.

Hastings, a former federal judge, was impeached by the House and, after a trial, removed from the bench by the Senate in 1989 for bribery and perjury.  He was elected to the House of Representatives in 1992.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Nov292010

Ethics Committee Refers Rangel Resolution to House

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., the chair of the House Committee on Standards on Official Conduct, told reporters late Monday evening that the ethics committee has submitted a resolution to the House of Representatives regarding the matter with Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y.

A senior aide from the Speaker's office had not heard the news about the resolution, but suggested if it was true that the full House of Representatives could consider the ethics committee's recommendations as early as Tuesday or Wednesday.

By a vote of nine to one, the panel of five Republicans and five Democrats earlier this month agreed with chief committee counsel R. Blake Chisam, who had recommended the penalty. It also recommended that Rangel be required to pay restitution on unpaid taxes.

The full House must now vote on whether to approve the penalty or impose a different one. If the House votes to approve the sanction -- a simple majority is needed -- the 40-year incumbent lawmaker would likely go to the House to immediately hear a rebuke from the Speaker.

The censure recommendation could be brought to the floor by a point of privilege at any moment this week or brought to the floor through the Rules committee.  It's possible the Rules committee could orchestrate the rules to keep Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., from reading a potential rebuke of Rangel and rather have the Speaker Pro Tempore read it, but precedence suggests that the Speaker of the House might actually have to read it.

The ethics committee found Rangel guilty of 11 of 13 ethics charges, ranging from improper fundraising, inappropriate possession of multiple rent-controlled apartments and failure to pay taxes on a vacation home.

Rangel's censure by the ethics committee is only the fourth time such a penalty has been imposed in the history of the House of Representatives. The House has also rendered four expulsions, three censures and nine reprimands.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Friday
Nov192010

Rep. Maxine Waters House Ethics Case Delayed

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The House Ethics Committee Friday cancelled the upcoming public trial set for Nov. 29 of California Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters, saying the discovery of "new materials" in the case means further investigation is required.

Waters, a senior member of the House Financial Services Committee, stands accused of improperly using her influence in 2008 to help secure $12 million in TARP funds for a struggling bank with financial ties to her husband. She has denied any wrongdoing.

It's unclear what new information the committee will consider and how it could affect the charges or the need for a public trial. However, it's likely that resolution of the Waters case will not occur before the next Congress is seated in January.

The committee's announcement comes one day after the panel of five Democrats and five Republicans concluded its public trial for veteran New York Rep. Charles Rangel. The members recommended Rangel be censured by the full House after what chairwoman Rep. Zoe Lofgren called "wrenching" deliberations.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Nov182010

Rep. Charles Rangel: House Panel Chooses Censure, Restitution

Photo Courtesy - ABC News (WASHINGTON) -- The House Ethics Committee on Thursday voted to recommend the censure of New York Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel, who was found guilty earlier this week of multiple violations of House rules.

By a vote of nine to one, the panel of five Republicans and five Democrats agreed with chief committee counsel R. Blake Chisam, who had recommended the penalty. It also recommended that Rangel be required to pay restitution on unpaid taxes.

The full House must now vote on whether to approve the penalty or impose a different one.

"We have worked hard together in this matter in a way that has been actually quite wrenching," said committee chairwoman Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif. "We are satisfied to be concluded."

If the House votes to approve the sanction -- a simple majority is needed -- Rangel would then be forced to appear in the well of the House, where members stand when they address the chamber, and hear the charges against him read by the Speaker of the House.

The penalty of censure is reserved for "more serious" offenses, according to House rules, and is the most stringent punishment Congress can impose short of expulsion.

Rangel, 80, once the powerful chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, stood silently before the committee as chairwoman Lofgren read their decision.

He then said again he hoped the committee would make "abundantly clear" in its report to the full House that he hadn't benefitted personally from his wrongdoing.

On Tuesday, the committee found Rangel guilty of 11 of 13 ethics charges, ranging from improper fundraising, inappropriate possession of multiple rent-controlled apartments and failure to pay taxes on a vacation home.

Rangel's censure by the ethics committee is only the fourth time such a penalty has been imposed in committee history. It has rendered four expulsions, three censures and nine reprimands.

The House most recently censured Rep. Gerry Studds in 1983 for inappropriate sexual behavior with a congressional page.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Nov182010

House Ethics Committee to Vote on Charles Rangel's Punishment

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The legendary, once-powerful New York Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel will learn his fate Thursday when he is sanctioned by the House Ethics Committee for multiple violations of House rules.

On Tuesday, the committee found Rangel guilty of 11 of 13 ethics charges, ranging from improper fundraising to failing to disclose assets on financial disclosure forms.

The sanction, whatever it might be, will be a stain on the record of a man who has served in the House for 40 years.  The scandal forced him to relinquish his chairmanship of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee in March.

Rangel has blasted the ethics proceeding because the committee was unwilling to delay the trial so that he could explore the creation of a legal defense fund to pay his bills.  He stormed out of the proceeding on the first day, saying he couldn't afford an attorney to represent him, even though the committee chairwoman, Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California, said he had had ample time to explore representation.

Later, Rangel released a statement calling the committee's verdict "unprecedented in view of the fact that they arrived at without rebuttal or counter evidence on my behalf."

At a noon hearing on Thursday, members of the committee will hear from R. Blake Chisam, the chief counsel for the ethics committee, who will lay out the sanction recommendations.

Based on the recommendations, the committee will then consider and vote on a sanction motion and its recommendations of disciplinary action before sending the matter to the full House of Representatives.  The possible sanctions range from expulsion from Congress -- which is highly unlikely -- to censure, reprimand or a formal letter of reproval.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Monday
Nov152010

Charles Rangel Seeks Delay, But Ethics Trial Moves Forward

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Embattled New York Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel on Monday defiantly demanded that the House Ethics Committee delay his pending public trial because he hasn't been given enough time to set up a defense fund to pay for legal representation.

But after a closed-door meeting to consider the request, the committee of four Democrats and four Republicans pledged to move forward, despite Rangel's threat to walk out on the proceedings.

Rangel, who had initially appeared without lawyers by his side, told the committee that his legal team had to withdraw in October because he was unable to pay the nearly $2 million in legal bills. He insisted moving forward now would be unfair.

Rangel also said that while he has asked repeatedly for the opportunity to clear his name, he only learned one week ago the details of the case. But committee chairwoman Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., said Rangel has had enough time to explore means to pay for counsel and consider the evidence and charges against him.

Rangel, who resigned as chairman of the Ways & Means Committee in March, faces 13 counts of violating House rules, including improperly fundraising for a community center in his name and failing to disclose more than a half million dollars in assets on financial disclosure forms.

Other charges allege he improperly obtained four rent-controlled apartments in New York City; failed to disclose financial arrangements for a villa at the Punta Cana Yacht Club in the Dominican Republic; and, improperly stored a vehicle in the House parking lot.

A panel of three nonpartisan lawyers for the ethics committee began presenting evidence gathered over the two year investigation. The trial is expected to last two weeks.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio







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