- - Thursday, June 7, 2012

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 … we feel that it is absolutely essential that the committee move forward with absolute transparency and release [the] report,” they continued.

Mr. Martin advised moving forward with the case 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.

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.

INTERIOR

Salazar seeks to broker deal for Eisenhower memorial

A member of President Obama’s Cabinet is taking a direct interest in helping to resolve a dispute over the design of a national memorial to Dwight D. Eisenhower, likely delaying the project beyond the summer.

Interior Department spokesman Adam Fetcher said Thursday that Interior Secretary Kenneth L. Salazar has expressed interest in viewing models of architect Frank Gehry’s design with the key parties involved. No meeting has been set, but Mr. Salazar could hold discussions about how the memorial project in the nation’s capital could move forward.

Eisenhower’s family has objected to the design.

Memorial commission members Sen. Daniel K. Inouye of Hawaii and Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas say they will work with the Interior Department but hope to avoid excessive delays.

HOUSE

TSA says it’s working to ease security rules

House lawmakers are giving an earful to the chief of the Transportation Security Administration, just in time for the summer travel season.

At a hearing Thursday, lawmakers complained about some carry-on items barred from planes and one even wondered about letting passengers carry weapons onboard to fight any terrorists. But the TSA official said that was a nonstarter.

Alabama Republican Rep. Mike Rogers and others complained to TSA Administrator John S. Pistole that the agency still prohibits passengers from carrying water bottles, razors or pocket knives this long after the 9/11 attacks.

Mr. Pistole said he recognizes passenger frustrations and that the agency is working on changes to make things easier, including letting children younger than 12 and adults 75 or older keep their shoes on during security checks.

HOUSE

Panel passes bill on Russian human rights

The House Foreign Affairs Committee has voted to penalize Russian human rights violators in a measure that could complicate efforts to normalize U.S. trade relations with Moscow.

The legislation, approved by voice vote, imposes visa bans and freezes the assets of those held responsible for gross human rights violations in Russia. Specifically, it targets those allegedly involved in the imprisonment, torture and death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in a Russian jail in 2009.

The bill also requires those officials implicated in human rights violations to be publicly named and sanctioned.

Russian officials have condemned the legislation and indicated they will retaliate if Congress passes the Magnitsky bill. Supporters of a companion Senate bill say it could be linked to an administration-supported effort to normalize trade relations with Moscow.

CAMPAIGN

Obama ad targets Congress, demands action on jobs

President Obama’s re-election campaign is turning its focus to Congress, blaming lawmakers in a new television ad for not acting on his jobs proposals. The approach comes in the aftermath of lackluster employment reports and expands the campaign’s ad focus beyond targeting Republican rival Mitt Romney.

The ad does not mention congressional Republicans, but its target is unmistakable. Republicans have proposed their own measures aimed at creating jobs and have blocked several Obama proposals to promote the hiring of teachers and police officers and to increase infrastructure projects. Mr. Obama has proposed paying for those measures with tax increases on wealthier taxpayers, an idea Republicans reject.

The ad is airing in the key presidential election states of Colorado, Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports