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Power Discourages Panel Challenges to Maxine Waters

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Rep. Maxine Waters is next in line to become the top Democrat on the Financial Services Committee and appears poised to take the role without opposition.

“People are acting in deference to Maxine Waters because of how active she’s been with the committee and how it would appear to be blatantly unfair if she did not end up in that chair. It’s a matter of fairness,” CBC Chairman Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) said.

Still, Waters’ ascension is not without controversy. She is not an active fundraiser for her fellow House candidates, an expected duty of any lawmaker with future ambition. And the ethics case, which has dragged on for several years, concerns Financial Services issues. The panel has been investigating whether she and her staff intervened with federal regulators on behalf of a community bank in which her husband had a financial interest.

Just days before a rare public ethics trial was slated to begin in November 2010 — already more than a year after allegations first surfaced — the House Ethics Committee announced that it had uncovered new information and the proceedings would be postponed. Two staffers were placed on administrative leave following the cancellation, and internal documents leaked to the press showed that the committee’s former staff director believed the integrity of the probe had been compromised.

In July, the Ethics Committee hired Billy Martin, a partner at the law firm Dorsey & Whitney, to investigate the actions of committee members and staffers in the Waters matter and determine whether and how the committee’s investigation of the California Democrat could continue. Martin’s contract was later extended and is set to expire this summer.

Though the Ethics panel announced last month that it had appointed alternates for six Members who had recused themselves from the case, the status of Martin’s report on the committee and the Waters probe remains unknown. If the committee moves to censure Waters, as it did with then-Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.), her bid to move up at Financial Services could be compromised. If the findings are anything less, it’s unclear what the ramifications might be.

But Waters, Cleaver suggested, “is a victim of partisanship in Washington. Not from Members as much as the Ethics Committee.”

Amanda Becker contributed to this report.

Correction: March 14, 2012

An earlier version of the article incorrectly stated that the district of Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) includes Wall Street. It does not.

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