Waters Letter Requests Dismissal of Ethics Case

Posted July 19, 2011 at 6:09pm

Updated: 7:26 p.m.

Rep. Maxine Waters on Tuesday formalized her request that the House Ethics Committee dismiss a case against her in light of revelations that its staff may have violated House rules in its investigation.

In a three-page letter addressed to the 10 Members of the panel, the California Democrat’s attorney laid out arguments for immediately dropping the probe. The committee was expected to meet Tuesday evening.

“The [committee’s] misconduct is of such a fundamentally improper level that it cannot be cured by reliance on any other device, including employment of an outside counsel,” attorney Stan Brand wrote. “This Committee can never conduct an impartial and unbiased inquiry into this matter.”

An ethics investigative subcommittee charged Waters in August with violating the chamber’s rules, alleging 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 disputed allegations of wrongdoing by her office.

But a little more than a week before the Ethics panel was set to hear her trial in November, it abruptly postponed the proceedings, citing the need to consider new evidence. It was later revealed that two of the lead staff attorneys on the case, Stacey Sovereign and Morgan Kim, had been placed on administrative leave.

Since that time, leaked memos have indicated that the lawyers communicated about the merits of the case with Ethics member Michael McCaul (R-Texas) and current Chairman Jo Bonner (R-Ala.) in violation of House rules. The memos were first reported and released by Politico on Monday.

Brand’s letter accuses the committee and its staff of misconduct and suggests that the communications indicate a lack of compelling evidence in Waters’ case.

Should the committee reject her pleas, Waters could take up a privileged resolution on the House floor demanding an investigation into the two lawyers’ actions or into the actions of the committee members.

Brand also wrote that Waters could take legal action if the ethics case isn’t dropped.