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House ethics panel in turmoil as top lawyer resigns

Boehner's office declined to comment on his pending five selections to the ethics committee next year. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who will be minority leader next year, has also declined to comment on her five picks for the panel.

The partisan tension on the panel reached a peak with Bonner's unilateral move to shut down the office. During Thanksgiving week, a Capitol Police officer guarded the door of the ethics panel offices in the U.S. Capitol, and about eight staff members were told not to come to work, sources said.

Bonner declined to comment on the incident. "You'd have to check with the committee," he said Wednesday.

Chisam, who is the public spokesman for the panel, declined to comment.

Waters is accused of allowing her staff to help executives from a minority-owned bank, in which her husband was a large investor, obtain $12 million in bailout funds during the 2008 financial crisis. She has denied wrongdoing, saying that as a senior member of the Financial Services Committee she was trying to help a broad group of minority banks.

Her trial was delayed when the committee announced that it had uncovered an e-mail from September 2008 that included more discussions between her personal legislative office and committee staff about the bailout legislation.

At the same time, the committee privately suspended the two lawyers who had been leading the investigation. The Washington Post has reported that the suspensions came just before Thanksgiving in a dispute with Chisam.

With Chisam stepping down and the other lawyers suspended, the ethics panel appears to have no counsel left to present the Waters case.

kanep@washpost.com leonnigc@washpost.com


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