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House Democrats Demand Ethics Report on Waters Case

A group of House Democrats today sent a letter to the Ethics Committee asking it to release the findings of the special counsel who concluded the committee had not violated the rights of Rep. Maxine Waters as it prepared its case against the California Democrat.

The push for the disclosure of the report followed the committee’s announcement on Wednesday that it had unanimously concurred that Waters’ due process rights weren’t violated by the committee’s members and staffers and that its case against Waters could proceed.

“Without the public, the Congress, and Representative Waters being able to review the findings included in this report, the integrity of the Committee’s process will further be called into question,” the letter said.

As of late Thursday afternoon, at least 69 Democratic Members had signed the letter, which Waters personally circulated among her colleagues.

Acting Ethics Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and ranking member John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) had on Wednesday sent a letter to Waters that addressed charges of rules and due process violations that she had lodged against the committee.

Though the letter conceded that at least one of the committee’s former staffers had likely leaked confidential information regarding the Waters case and one had made racially insensitive remarks during the investigation — it was unclear from the report whether the actions were made by the same individual or two separate staffers — the rights to which Waters was entitled during the committee’s investigation had been met, the committee said.

“The Committee has unanimously found that you have been afforded notice and the opportunity to be heard. As such, there has been no violation of the due process rights to which you are entitled,” the letter said.

The committee’s announcement this week marked the culmination of a yearlong investigation of the committee’s actions by a specially hired outside counsel and was just the latest twist in an investigation of Waters that has dragged on for almost three years.

The probe began in the independent Office of Congressional Ethics, which in July 2009 voted unanimously that the Ethics Committee should review allegations that when Waters asked Treasury Department officials in September 2008 to meet with members of the National Bankers Association, it was primarily to discuss OneUnited Bank. Waters’ husband has in the past been a board member of the bank and had a financial stake in it at the time of the meeting.

The Ethics Committee convened an investigative subcommittee to look into whether the meeting was a conflict of interest and in August 2010 said it had formed an adjudicatory committee that would hear the case. Just days before a rare public ethics trial was slated to begin in November 2010, however, the committee announced it would be postponed. Documents later leaked to the media showed that the committee’s former staff director believed that improper behavior by committee staffers may have compromised the investigation.

The committee in July of last year hired litigator Billy Martin to review Waters’ charge that the committee had violated her rights during its investigation before deciding whether the case against her could proceed. Wednesday’s announcement marked the completion of the first phase with which Martin was tasked.

Six committee members announced in February that they had voluntarily recused themselves from the Waters matter at Martin’s recommendation. Republican Reps. Mike Simpson (Idaho), Steven LaTourette (Ohio), Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), Tim Griffin (Ark.) and Goodlatte and Democratic Rep. John Sarbanes (Md.) were appointed as substitute committee members, with Goodlatte acting as chairman and existing Ethics member Yarmuth as ranking member. It was these Members who considered and voted on Martin’s findings.

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