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Waters Faces Ethics Trial, Vows to Fight Charges

The House ethics committee announced Monday that Rep. Maxine Waters will face an ethics trial at an unspecified date, after an investigative panel found substantial reason to believe that the California Democrat violated House rules or broke other laws.

Waters becomes the second lawmaker to move toward an ethics trial in the 111th Congress, only days after the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct initiated proceedings in an unrelated investigation of Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.).

Waters has been the subject of an investigation since October 2009 focused on her relationship with the National Bankers Association and OneUnited Bank and her role in the decision to provide $12 million in federal bailout funds to the latter in 2009.

Waters’ husband, Sidney Williams, had served on OneUnited Bank’s board and owned a minimum of $500,000 in the company’s stock in 2007.

The ethics committee announcement, which said ethics Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and ranking member Jo Bonner (R-Ala.) will chair the adjudicatory panel that will judge Waters, did not specify when the panel will meet. The House is in recess until mid-September.

The adjudicatory subcommittee, composed of four Democratic and four Republican lawmakers, will determine whether Waters violated any rules. Both Waters and ethics committee counsel could present evidence and call witnesses to testify during the trial.

If the adjudicatory panel finds Waters culpable, the ethics committee will then convene to determine a punishment. The full House could also be called on to vote on sanctions, if the punishment rose to the level of a reprimand, censure or expulsion from the chamber.

The Monday announcement did not detail the allegations against Waters, but the panel did release a report from the Office of Congressional Ethics, which probed allegations involving Waters and recommended a full investigation in summer 2009.

In a statement released Monday, Waters denied wrongdoing.

“I have not violated any House rules,” she said. “Therefore, I simply will not be forced to admit to something I did not do and instead have chosen to respond to charges made by the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct in a public hearing.”

Waters continued: “Starting with the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) report released today, the record will clearly show that in advocating on behalf of minority banks neither my office nor I benefited in any way, engaged in improper action or influenced anyone. Additionally, the OCE acknowledges that I have fully disclosed my assets as required by House rules, even going above and beyond the requirements by disclosing my assets at several Financial Services Committee hearings. In sum, the case against me has no merit.”

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