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Six Ethics Panel Members Recuse Themselves From Waters Probe

The House Ethics Committee announced today that six committee members have voluntary recused themselves from the matter involving Rep. Maxine Waters and that six alternates have been appointed to hear the California Democrat’s case.

The announcement, which was delivered as a letter from Ethics Chairman Jo Bonner (R-Ala.) to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and read on the House floor, comes on the heels of an independent attorney’s six-month probe into whether the actions of current and former ethics panel members and staffers botched the Waters investigation by violating her due process rights.

The committee made no further statement about the status of the Waters probe or when it will continue.

“The record should note that these recusal requests are not based on any indication of wrongdoing or inappropriate partisanship by the Members,” Bonner’s letter stated.

The committee announced in July that it had retained Dorsey & Whitney partner Billy Martin to review whether committee members and staffers acted inappropriately in the months leading up to Waters’ scheduled trial, which was postponed just days before it was set to begin in late 2010. Two staffers were placed on administrative leave following the cancellation, and internal documents leaked to the press showed that the committee’s former staff director believed the integrity of the investigation had been compromised.

Martin was first tasked with examining the committee’s behavior and then deciding whether the Waters case could move forward.

Bonner and Reps. Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.), Michael McCaul (R-Texas), Mike Conaway (R-Texas), Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) and Gregg Harper (R-Miss.) requested recusal from the Waters matter. Reps. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Tim Griffin (R-Ark.) and John Sarbanes (D-Md.) will substitute, with Goodlatte acting as chairman and existing Ethics member Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) as ranking member.

“Outside counsel has discovered no evidence indicating bias or partiality on the part of former Members or requiring the exclusion of any former Members of the Committee from serving as substitute Members. However, out of an abundance of caution and for the same reasons as the current Members volunteering their recusal, Mr. Martin has recommended that no Member who served in the 111th Congress should serve as a substitute Member in this matter,” the letter said.

Martin told the committee that he reviewed “tens of thousands of pages” of documents and interviewed current and former committee members and staffers, but one necessary witness who is not currently with the committee refused to testify when subpoenaed and it has prevented the completion of the due process review.

“While Mr. Martin had advised that the most appropriate time to present his recommendations regarding recusal would be upon the completion of the due process review, he has now counseled the Committee to advance that timing,” Bonner’s letter said.

Correction: Feb. 17, 2012

An earlier version of this story misidentified the party of Rep. Mike Simpson (Idaho). He is a Republican.

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