Total Pageviews

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Waters Ethics Investigation Will Not Result in Formal Charges


A long-running ethics investigation of Representative Maxine Waters, Democrat of California, will be resolved on Friday at a rare House Ethics Committee public hearing and two parties with direct knowledge of the matter said they expect it to conclude without formal charges of wrongdoing.

Ms. Waters, a senior member of the House Financial Services Committee, was accused of using her office in late 2008 to set up a meeting with top Treasury Department officials on behalf of a bank her husband owned stock in, at a time when the bank faced possible collapse because of the financial crisis.

The investigation itself has been mired in controversy, after the House ethics committee's own chief counsel accu sed staff members in 2010 of sharing confidential details about the matter with Republicans, a violation of House rules.

The result was an extraordinary outside investigation by a former Justice Department prosecutor who was appointed first to see if the ethics committee itself had acted improperly before restarting a new inquiry into the allegations against Ms. Waters.

This second investigation is complete and has been submitted to a new panel of House members appointed to review the evidence, two parties with direct knowledge of the case said.

Typically, when the ethics committee holds a public hearing on an investigation, it means that the committee has turned up such evidence of wrongdoing, but the lawmaker has refused to accept a settlement, resulting in a hearing that serves, in effect, as a trial.

That is a very rare step, which took place most recently in November 2010 to address charges against Representative Charles B. Rangel, Democrat of New York, and concluded with a finding that Mr. Rangel had violated House rules by accepting rent-stabilized apartments from a Manhattan developer and failing to pay income taxes on rent from a villa in the Dominican Republic, among other charges.

But two parties with direct knowledge of the investigation said Friday's hearing on the new inquiry into Ms. Waters - led by the former federal prosecutor Billy Martin - has concluded without a recommendation that Ms. Waters be sanctioned by the House for wrongdoing. The report could still include findings that she acted inappropriately or unwisely, without recommending that she be sanctioned. The hearing Friday would give Ms. Waters a chance to respond to such allegations in a public way.

Ms. Waters has long defended her actions in late 2008, when she said she merely called then Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. and requested a meeting on behalf of an organization of minority-owne d banks. During the first inquiry, House investigators suggested there was evidence of wrong-doing, as her meeting ended up focusing largely on a single bank - OneUnited, a minority-owned institution that her husband had served on the board of and at the time still owned stock in. OneUnited ultimately received bailout funds from Treasury.

The hearing Friday could mean an end to the ethics cloud Ms. Waters has been under since 2009, when the allegations about the meeting she requested with the Treasury Department were first reported in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

An ethics committee spokesman on Thursday declined to comment on the matter. A spokesman for Ms. Waters said he could not discuss the details of Friday's hearing.