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After $800K probe, Dems want answers in Waters case

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A contingent of 68 House Democrats is demanding more answers from the Ethics committee about its decisions to move forward with the 2-year-old case against Rep. Maxine Waters and to dismiss the California Democrat’s argument that her due process rights were violated.

The group of Democrats wrote a letter to the committee Thursday, calling on the panel to immediately release the report issued by outside special counsel Billy Martin, which looked into accusations that the panel mishandled the case against her. He found that some of Mrs. Waters’ complaints had merit but advised going forward with the case anyway.

Without a public accounting of the counsel’s findings, “the integrity of the Committee’s process will further be called into question,” wrote the members, who include a large swath of the Congressional Black Caucus and more than a dozen other liberal-leaning members.

The committee now plans an investigation on the merits of the case against Mrs. Waters, which focuses on whether she tried to steer federal bailout funds to a minority-owned bank where her husband was a shareholder.

“Considering that it was the conduct of the committee that necessitated Mr. Martin’s investigation in the first place, which came at the cost of up to $800,000 to the U.S. taxpayer, we feel that it is absolutely essential that the committee move forward with absolute transparency and release [the] report,” they continued.

Citing the special counsel’s report, the group of Democrats was confused by Mr. Martin’s conclusion that Mrs. Waters’ due process rights weren’t violated even though the panel conceded that a committee staffer invoked the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when questioned about the Waters matter, that unnamed staffer members made “inappropriate and/or racially insensitive remarks,” and that committee staff leaked confidential information.

The Ethics committee publicly released a letter sent to Mrs. Waters on Wednesday concluding that her due process rights had not been violated despite Mr. Martin’s factual findings.

In making his argument to move forward with the case against her, Mr. Martin said the due-process rights do not apply to the House Ethics committee, which is not subject to the same Constitutional protections that apply to the U.S. legal system, or did not bias the case against her.

The two-year probe became mired in accusations of prosecutorial misconduct and partisan maneuvering, forcing the committee to delay Mrs. Waters‘ public trial, originally set for fall 2010, and hire a special prosecutor to sort it all out when more details leaked out last year.

Mrs. Waters has aggressively fought the charges and pushed for the case to be resolved quickly. With Rep. Barney Frank, Massachusetts Democrat, retiring at the end of next year, Mrs. Waters is in line to replace him as the top Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee.

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About the Author

Susan Crabtree

Susan Crabtree is an award-winning investigative reporter with more than 15 years of reporting experience in Washington, D.C. Her reporting about bribery, corruption and conflict-of-interest issues on Capitol Hill has led to several FBI and ethics investigations, as well as consequences for members within their caucuses and at the ballot box. Susan can be reached at scrabtree@washingtontimes.com.

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