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Outsider Privy to Ethics Case

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Rep. Maxine Waters has seized on the admission of leaked emails as a sign of the Ethics Committee’s dysfunction and has demanded that the panel release the special counsel’s findings from a yearlong review.

The chairman and ranking member, for example, typically have one staffer from their personal office who is also authorized to work on ethics matters, under the premise that it is beneficial to have one individual who is familiar with the Member’s work both outside and on the committee.

“Each may appoint one individual,” the  committee’s rules state.

Bonner’s appointed individual at this time, referred to as a designee, was Strickland, who is his counsel now that he chairs the committee.

There are two other provisions that the chairman and ranking member can use to bring additional staffers into the fold.

The first rule states that information cannot be shared with those outside the panel “unless authorized by the Committee.”

The committee could, therefore, vote to approve additional staffers for specific matters, though such action would likely be taken during a private meeting, experts said.

Even without a committee vote, its leaders could interpret a rule that allows the chairman and ranking member to “after consultation with each other ... make public statements regarding matters before the Committee or any subcommittee” in a way that allows them to share information with additional members of their personal staff.

“To a certain extent, that [rule] is viewed as an ability to disclose things that would otherwise not be able to be disclosed ... and it could in theory be used to also permit some sharing that isn’t completely public,” said one attorney familiar with the panel’s work who asked not to be named.

The committee would not confirm whether it had voted to approve or otherwise authorize Spencer or any other staffers to work on the Waters case or other pending investigations during this time period.

The offices of Bonner and Lofgren declined to comment on the email.

The long-delayed Waters case, which began in the independent Office of Congressional Ethics, will likely move forward now that the special counsel has completed his review of the committee’s handling of the probe.

Waters’ role in setting up a meeting between Treasury Department officials and the National Bankers Association is alleged to be a conflict of interest because her husband had a financial stake in OneUnited Bank, which was discussed at the meeting.

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