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Posted at 10:26 AM ET, 09/21/2012

Maxine Waters cleared of House ethics charges

A House ethics panel has determined there is no evidence that Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) violated congressional rules when she called Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson in 2008 on behalf of minority-owned banks, despite her husband’s financial stake in one troubled institution.


Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) (Charles Dharapak - AP)

The finding concludes an investigation into Waters’s actions that was disrupted by allegations of misconduct within a previous committee probing her conduct. A new panel created to review Waters’s actions ultimately took the highly unusual step of hiring an outside lawyer to conduct the inquiry.

At a rare public hearing Friday, members of the committee indicated they were prepared to accept the findings of the outside lawyer. The attorney, Billy Martin, found that Waters believed she was intervening on behalf of all minority-owned banks—and not directly on behalf of OneUnited Bank of Boston, in which her husband held stock.

He therefore found no evidence that she knowingly violated House rules. When she learned that OneUnited, on whose board her husband once sat, was seeking federal bailout funds, she ended her involvement, Martin concluded.

OneUnited ultimately received $12 million through the federal Troubled Asset Relief Program to help offset losses from investments in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Waters’s actions occurred during the height of the financial crash, when many banks were facing difficulties because of investments in the federal housing agencies.

The conclusion of the investigation was delayed after it was revealed that two staff attorneys to the committee had leaked information in 2010 to Republican committee members. House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) appointed the six lawmakers who met Friday in 2011 to restart the probe.

Martin also found that the leaks did not violate Waters’s due process rights. Waters has long maintained that she wanted to clear the her name quickly and that the long delay has been unfair. She had repeatedly requested a public hearing like the one held Friday.

But with her name already cleared, the Friday panel discussion has instead been devoted to the question of whether her grandson, chief of staff Mikael Moore, violated House rules by continuing to work on OneUnited’s behalf even after Waters informed him of her husband’s interest and instructed him not to do so.

Moore is publicly testifying Friday that he did not know of Waters’s husband’s investment in the bank when he intervened on its behalf in September 2008. The panel is currently deliberating whether to press ahead with a finding that his claims are not credible and he should face sanctions.

The long-awaited end of the ethics probe clears the way for Waters to become the ranking Democrat on the key Financial Services Committee in the next Congress, after the retirement of Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.).

By  |  10:26 AM ET, 09/21/2012

 
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