A coalition of reform groups are calling on the House Ethics Committee to resume its work on the investigation of Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA). The ethics watchdogs said in a letter to House Ethics Chairman Jo Bonner (R-Ala.) and Linda Sanchez (D-CA) that they want the committee to let the public know more about the status of the case.Two lawyers on the Ethics Committee — Morgan Kim and Stacey Sovereign — who were working on the Waters case were suspended in November for still unconfirmed reasons but amid accusations that they either bungled or perhaps pursued too aggressively the case against Waters. Kim has since landed in a position on the GOP staff of the House Natural Resources Committee.
“These delays, followed by uncertainty whether any action is forthcoming, are unfair to all parties involved in the case and reflect poorly on the ability of the House Committee on Ethics to fulfill its mission,” the coalition writes in a letter.
Since Republicans took control of the House of Representatives, the Ethics Committee has virtually shut down due to partisan sniping over how the Waters case was handled last year.
Waters was accused of improperly securing federal aid for a bank in which her husband was invested. She’s denied the allegations and even called for a task force to investigate the Ethics Committee itself back in December, but backed off a couple days later.
The Ethics Committee did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The only document posted on the committee’s website this month deals with the ethical issues involved with raising money on behalf of victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
Here’s the letter sent by the coalition of reform groups:
March 23, 2011
The Hon. Jo Bonner, Chairman
The Hon. Linda T. Sanchez, Ranking Member
House Committee on Ethics
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515
RE: Status of the Matter Regarding Rep. Maxine Waters
Dear House Committee on Ethics:
Our organizations – Campaign Legal Center, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Common Cause, Democracy 21, League of Women Voters and Public Citizen – are concerned about the length of time it has taken the House Committee on Ethics to investigate and conclude the Matter Re: Representative Maxine Waters. We are writing to ask the Committee to inform us and the public when it plans to resume its work and adjudicate the case.
The investigation of Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Cal.) has been pending for approximately two years. The case involves allegations that the Waters and/or her staff in 2008 engaged in improper behavior that resulted in substantial financial gain for the Representative.
The Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) began its investigation into the allegations on April 2, 2009, and recommended on August 6, 2009, that the Committee on Ethics further investigate the matter. The Committee on Ethics accepted the recommendations of OCE and set up an investigatory subcommittee on October 7, 2010, which on June 15 recommended an adjudicatory hearing. The Committee on Ethics agreed and scheduled a hearing to take place on November 29, 2010, which was suddenly cancelled without explanation by the Committee ten days prior to the hearing.
Recent news reports indicate that the Committee has no plans yet for resuming the investigation or adjudicatory hearing and concluding the matter.
These delays, followed by uncertainty whether any action is forthcoming, are unfair to all parties involved in the case and reflect poorly on the ability of the House Committee on Ethics to fulfill its mission.
We request that the committee inform us and the public about when the Committee is planning to resume its work on this case and when the Committee is anticipating completing its adjudication of this case.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
Campaign Legal Center
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington
League of Women Voters