The Washington Times - September 25, 2012, 01:09PM

The House Ethics Committee officially exonerated Rep. Maxine Waters, California Democrat, in a 3-year-old conflict-of-interest case involving her work on behalf of minority-owned banks despite her husband’s financial stake in one of them.

Mrs. Waters has vigorously fought the charges, and the panel’s long-awaited decision removes an ethical cloud that threatened to jeopardize her quest for the top Democratic spot on the powerful House Financial Services Committee. Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, who holds the top spot on the committee, is retiring, and Mrs. Waters is the next most senior Democrat on the panel.

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“It appears that Rep. Waters recognized and made efforts to avoid a conflict of interest with respect to OneUnited [Bank],” the committee said on Tuesday.

The panel was more critical of her Mrs. Waters’ chief of staff and grandson, Mikael Moore, finding that he knew or should have known that two emails he sent advocating for OneUnited Bank created a conflict of interest because Mrs. Waters’ husband owned $350,000 in stock in the bank.

Still, the Ethics Committee only issued Mr. Moore a letter of reproval, the lightest disciplinary action at its disposal. The committee unanimously voted to issue the letter, finding Mr. Moore guilty of using his office for personal gain, dispensing favors and bringing discredit on the House of Representatives.

The panel issued the letter after holding a rare public hearing for Mr. Moore Friday, in which he aggressively challenged the panel’s case against him point by point, specifically arguing that he didn’t know how he would have enriched himself in the scenario laid out in an outside counsel’s report and said he thought bringing discredit to the House was a particularly harsh assessment.