Six government reform organizations are calling on the House Committee on Ethics to resume its work on an investigation into Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) that has been stalled since late last year.
The groups – the Campaign Legal Center, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Common Cause, Democracy 21, the League of Women Voters and Public Citizen – sent a letter Wednesday to the ethics committee in which they said they were concerned that the case was still pending nearly two years after the Office of Congressional Ethics began its investigation in April 2009.
“These delays, followed by uncertainty whether any action is forthcoming, are unfair to all parties involved in the case and reflect poorly on the ability of the House Committee on Ethics to fulfill its mission,” the groups wrote.
“We request that the committee inform us and the public about when the Committee is planning to resume its work on this case and when the Committee is anticipating completing its adjudication of this case,” they added.
Waters faces allegations of improperly working to secure federal aid for a bank in which her husband was a large investor. After its subcommittee released an 80-page report in August finding that Waters probably broke ethics rules, the ethics committee scheduled a trial for late November.
But the committee announced little over a week before the trial date that it was postponing consideration of the case indefinitely in light of newly-discovered evidence, an e-mail from Waters’s chief of staff and grandson, Mikael Moore.
The panel was thrown into further turmoil after its chairman at the time, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), suspended the two lawyers who had been leading the Waters investigation over an apparent dispute with the committee’s top attorney, Blake Chisam. Chisam resigned several weeks later.
Since then, the new chairman of the committee, Rep. Jo Bonner (R-Ala.), has accused Lofgren of violating House rules by suspending the two lawyers, Morgan Kim and Stacy Sovereign. Bonner has said the move was unilateral and “without cause.” According to a lawyer for Kim and Sovereign, the two were reinstated, but chose not to return to the committee.
Spokesmen for Bonner and Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.), the new ranking member on the ethics panel, did not immediately respond Wednesday to requests for comment on the state of the investigation.
The full letter is after the jump.
March 23, 2011
The Hon. Jo Bonner, Chairman
The Hon. Linda T. Sanchez, Ranking Member
House Committee on Ethics
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515
RE: Status of the Matter Regarding Rep. Maxine Waters
Dear House Committee on Ethics:
Our organizations – Campaign Legal Center, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Common Cause, Democracy 21, League of Women Voters and Public Citizen – are concerned about the length of time it has taken the House Committee on Ethics to investigate and conclude the Matter Re: Representative Maxine Waters. We are writing to ask the Committee to inform us and the public when it plans to resume its work and adjudicate the case.
The investigation of Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Cal.) has been pending for approximately two years. The case involves allegations that the Waters and/or her staff in 2008 engaged in improper behavior that resulted in substantial financial gain for the Representative.
The Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) began its investigation into the allegations on April 2, 2009, and recommended on August 6, 2009, that the Committee on Ethics further investigate the matter. The Committee on Ethics accepted the recommendations of OCE and set up an investigatory subcommittee on October 7, 2010, which on June 15 recommended an adjudicatory hearing. The Committee on Ethics agreed and scheduled a hearing to take place on November 29, 2010, which was suddenly cancelled without explanation by the Committee ten days prior to the hearing.
Recent news reports indicate that the Committee has no plans yet for resuming the investigation or adjudicatory hearing and concluding the matter.
These delays, followed by uncertainty whether any action is forthcoming, are unfair to all parties involved in the case and reflect poorly on the ability of the House Committee on Ethics to fulfill its mission.
We request that the committee inform us and the public about when the Committee is planning to resume its work on this case and when the Committee is anticipating completing its adjudication of this case.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
Campaign Legal Center
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington
League of Women Voters