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Waters Questions Integrity of Ethics Panel After Suspensions

Rep. Maxine Waters called on the House ethics committee Wednesday to disclose why it put two staff attorneys on administrative leave, asserting that the integrity of the chamber’s ethics process has been “compromised.”

The California Democrat, who faces charges that she violated House rules, also asserted in a statement that the panel’s decision to suspend its own staff amounts to “an acknowledgement of flaws” in the investigation centered on the lawmaker and her staff.

The Committee on Standards of Official Conduct suspended Deputy Chief Counsel Morgan Kim and attorney Stacey Sovereign on Nov. 19, Politico first reported late Tuesday. A spokesman for the ethics committee declined to confirm or deny any employment actions.

The suspensions came the same day the ethics committee announced it would postpone an ethics trial on allegations involving Waters, which had been scheduled to begin Nov. 29.

“It appears that we now know the real reason for the delay: Something has gone wrong in the ethics process,” Waters said Wednesday, noting that Kim served as the lead attorney in the committee’s efforts to determine whether she violated House rules and that Sovereign assisted in the case.

“We don’t know the specifics, but we know that the integrity of the Committee and its investigative process have been compromised,” Waters said. “The longer the Committee withholds the details of its actions, the more the public’s confidence in the House ethics process is eroded.”

An ethics subcommittee charged Waters in August with violating the chamber’s rules over allegations that her chief of staff, Mikael Moore, tried to secure federal support for a bank in which Waters and her husband held hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of stock. Waters has denied wrongdoing in the case.

Her statement Wednesday said: “From the beginning, I have been concerned with the Committee’s unsupported conclusions, often contradictory arguments, and unfounded negative inferences. It now seems that these concerns were justified, as the Committee’s sanctioning of its own attorneys is an acknowledgement of flaws and failures in the Committee’s processes and handling of my case.”

Kim became the ethics panel’s deputy chief counsel in July 2009 after previously serving as an ethics counsel between 2006 and 2008. She worked for the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General between terms on the ethics panel.

According to House pay records maintained by, Sovereign joined the committee in December 2009.

House Minority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) expressed confidence in the chamber’s ethics committee Wednesday, although he acknowledged the suspensions raised “concerns that ought to be looked at.”

The ethics committee recently recommended that the House censure Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) for his repeated violations of House rules. The House is set to vote on that punishment Thursday.

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