An outside counsel hired by the House Ethics Committee to resolve allegations of prosecutorial misconduct in a 2-year-old conflict of interest case against Rep. Maxine Waters has concluded that the California Democrat’s due process rights have not been violated and the case against her will proceed.
Even though outside counsel Billy Martin found that several of Mrs. Waters complaints had merit, he concluded that they either did 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.
“Outside counsel has concluded, and this committee has unanimously found, that none of the individual allegations raised, nor the totality of the circumstances of those claims amount to a deprivation of your due process rights,” acting Ethics Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, a Republican from Virginia and Rep. John A. Yarmuth, the ranking Democrat from Kentucky, said in a letter to Mrs. Waters dated June 6.
The original Ethics Committee members involved in investigating and weighing the charges against Mrs. Waters earlier this year were forced to recuse themselves against any matter involving the Waters case. House leaders then appointed Mr. Goodlatte and Mr. Yarmuth and four others to examine the charges against Mrs. Waters, as well as allegations that the committee mishandled the case against her and violated her due process rights.
The committee will now move forward with an investigation into 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.
The two-year probe became mired in allegations of prosecutorial misconduct and partisan maneuvering, forcing the House Ethics Committee to delay Mrs. Waters‘ public trial in the fall of 2010 and hire a special prosecutor to sort it all out when more details were leaked out last year.
Mrs. Waters has aggressively fought the charges and pushed for the case to be resolved quickly. With Rep. Barney Frank, Democrat from Massachusetts, retiring at the end of next year, the California Democrat is next in line to replace him as the ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee.
In its letter to Mrs. Waters, the Ethics Committee conceded that at least one staffer on the panel probably broke several internal committee rules, including leaking documents to the news media. During the investigation, the former staffer invoked the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when responding to questions regarding the leaked documents, the panel wrote.
But even in this instance, the Ethics Committee determined that the leak was not a serious problem because it occurred after the panel had already concluded its investigation and charged Mrs. Waters with three counts of violating House rules, not before.
“While an unreasonable delay could in theory amount to a due process violation, here the delay has resulted primarily from the legitimate need for further investigation and in any event the proceedings are within the time limit established by the House itself,” they wrote.