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House Ethics Committee Clears Maxine Waters in Conflict of Interest Case

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

However, former testimony and correspondence suggests that Moore did, or at least should have, known it was against House rules to pursue legislation on behalf of an organization in which the Member he was working for had a stake.

"We are troubled by the fact that Mr. Moore's testimony raises substantial issues of credibility," Martin said.

A letter of reproval from the committee would not be the harshest form of punishment the Ethics panel could hand down. It would, however, be a blemish on Moore's reputation.

For that reason, Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio), a member of the panel handling the Waters investigation, asked Moore if he would prefer the Ethics Committee take more time to form an investigative subcommittee that could more fully explore the charges and perhaps clear his name.

Moore, after a prolonged silence and brief consultation with his lawyer, said he would prefer not to draw out the process any longer.

"Whether it's a letter of reproval or saying the idea that I knowingly and intentionally used the Congresswoman's office for personal gain, that I disrespected the House, is a very difficult pill to swallow," Moore said. "The way I've been trained [is] to fight ... but in this circumstance, I would say no [to an investigative subcommittee]."

With Waters cleared of wrongdoing, she will now be free to fully pursue the top Democratic slot on the Financial Services Committee as current ranking member Barney Frank (D-Mass.) prepares to retire at the end of this Congress.

He issued a statement this afternoon expressing enthusiasm for the Ethics Committee's decision.

"I was pleased but not surprised that the House Ethics Committee found no reason to bring any charges against my colleague Maxine Waters," Frank said.

Almost Over

The Waters probe began in 2009 at the independent Office of Congressional Ethics, which then referred the case to the ethics panel.

Just days before a rare public ethics trial conducted by the House committee was slated to begin in November 2010, the committee announced it would be sending the case back to the investigative subcommittee "due to materials discovered that may have had an effect on the investigative subcommittee's transmittal."

Shortly thereafter, it was revealed that two staffers were placed on administrative leave and that the former staff director had resigned. Later, internal committee documents published by Politico showed the committee's former staff director thought the staffers' improper behavior had likely compromised the investigation.

The leaked communications raised questions about whether then-Ethics Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and ranking member Jo Bonner (R-Ala.), who now chairs the committee, had allowed partisanship to affect the committee's investigation.

Waters argued that her due process rights had been violated and that the committee should abandon the charges. In July 2011, the committee hired Martin to determine whether committee members and staffers had acted in a way that improperly impacted Waters' case. Martin was asked to determine whether the case should be dropped, restarted or proceed.

Martin found no indication that Waters had been deprived due process in the handling of her case, clearing the way for today's hearing.

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