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Ethics Committee Has Slow Start

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The Ethics Committee has yet to announce whether it will pursue its investigation of Rep. Maxine Waters, who was charged last August by an investigative subcommittee of violating House rules.

The Ethics Committee has closed one review in 2011, announcing in January that it would not pursue allegations forwarded by the Office of Congressional Ethics that fundraising events held by three lawmakers may have violated House rules.

But among those unresolved matters is the Ethics Committee’s investigation of Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.).

An investigative subcommittee charged Waters in August with violating House rules, but in November the full Ethics panel suspended a scheduled ethics trial after announcing that it had uncovered new evidence in the case that same month. Both Kim and Sovereign, who had worked on the Waters inquiry, were suspended the same day the trial was postponed.

At that time, the Ethics panel announced the case would be “recommitted” to the same investigative panel for further review.

The Ethics Committee has not indicated publicly whether or how it intends to pursue the investigation in the current cycle — in the House, investigative subcommittees must be reconstituted to continue in a new Congress, but the panel could also elect to hire a special counsel.

A Waters aide declined to comment for this article, but it is expected that the California lawmaker would raise objections to a new investigation, as she has previously.

In November, Waters accused the Ethics Committee of violating its own rules, arguing that it is not permitted to amend the Statement of Alleged Violation, the formal document used to charge House lawmakers with rules violations, it issued against her in August.

Sources familiar with the case said Waters also privately objected to the membership of the investigative subcommittee, arguing that the lawmakers, who voted to charge her in August, could no longer be impartial when the case was returned to them in November.

The subcommittee charged Waters with violating House rules over allegations that her chief of staff tried to secure federal support for a bank in which Waters and her husband held hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of stock. She has denied wrongdoing.

Waters is expected to make similar objections should the Ethics Committee appoint a new investigative panel that includes the same Members this session.

Ethics leaders may also need to reappoint a subcommittee in the investigation of matters related to ex-Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.), who resigned from the House a year ago amid accusations that he sexually harassed several of his aides. An Ethics subcommittee was assigned to review the related issues, including when House Democratic leaders learned of the accusations and how they responded. The panel did not issue a report before the end of the last Congress.

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