Ethics Committee Probing Jackson Jr., Waters, Graves

Congressional Quarterly/Newscom

The House Ethics committee has revealed that it’s conducting separate inquiries into three lawmakers: Reps. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL), Maxine Waters (D-CA), and Sam Graves (R-MO).

• In the case of Jackson, the committee said in a statement that it’s looking into “whether Representative Jesse Jackson Jr., or an agent of Representative Jackson, may have offered to raise funds for then-Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich in return for the appointment of Representative Jackson to the Illinois Senate seat.” In a phone conversation that was recorded by prosecutors, Blago said that a staff person for Jackson offered $1 million in campaign contributions in return for appointing Jackson to the seat.Jackson had acknowledged in April that the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) — which refers information to the Ethics committee, and recommends whether the committee should investigate — was probing that issue. But according to Roll Call (sub. req.), the OCE report found:

In the course of conducting this review, the OCE learned that staff resources of the Representative’s Washington, DC and Chicago, Illinois, offices were used to mount ‘public campaign’ to secure the Representative’s appointment to the U.S. Senate. In doing so, Representative Jackson may have violated federal law and House rules concerning the proper use of the Member’s Representational Allowance…

The committee added that it will “defer its efforts … in light of an ongoing Justice Department inquiry.” It’s unclear whether that refers to the case against Blago and his aides, or a separate DOJ inquiry into Jackson himself.

• The committee didn’t say what the Waters probe was about. But the Los Angeles Times reported in March that she played a role in the government’s decision to give $12 million in bailout funds to OneUnited Bank. Waters’s husband had served on the board, and had owned stock, in the company.

Waters arranged a September 2008 meeting between the bank’s CEO and Treasury Department officials, at which the CEO asked directly for bailout funds, which were later provided.

• As for Graves, he acknowledged in a statement that the probe concerns testimony at a Small Business Committee hearing earlier this year. Graves invited his friend Brooks Hurst to testify at a hearing about renewable fuels, without mentioning that Graves’s wife and Hurst are co-investors in a renewable fuels plant in Missouri. Graves has also said in the past that he recruited “the Graves family” to invest in a different bio-diesel plant in Missouri.

The Ethics Committee statement said that the OCE had found no evidence that Graves had broken any rules, but nonetheless recommended that the Ethics committee investigate.

A list of the most corrupt lawmakers, released yesterday by the good-government group Citizens Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, included Waters and Jackson, citing the same issues that the committee appears to be investigating. Graves was not on the list.