The House Ethics Committee today rejected a request from a group of House Democrats that it release the findings of the special counsel who concluded the committee had not violated the rights of Rep. Maxine Waters as it prepared its case against the California Democrat.
The letter from all 10 Members who considered the special counsel Billy Martin’s findings — a group that includes six alternates and does not overlap with the group that handled the Waters investigation — said the committee’s letter to Waters earlier this week addressed her concerns and it was wrong to assume that a report exists that could be released.
It is “simply incorrect to assume that Mr. Martin ‘issued’ a ‘report’ in this matter. He did not,” the letter said. “By Committee rule, Committee proceedings are confidential. This includes the work of all staff — including outside counsel — in providing advice to the Committee.”
The back-and-forth correspondence began after the committee announced earlier this week that it had unanimously concurred that Waters’ due process rights weren’t violated by the committee’s members and staffers during the buildup to a rare public ethics trial that was scheduled for November 2010 but canceled just days before it was set to begin.
The announcement was accompanied by a detailed letter to Waters that addressed the claims she had made regarding the committee’s actions.
Sixty-nine House Democrats on Thursday requested that the committee release Martin’s findings.
The Waters case began when the independent Office of Congressional Ethics asked the committee to review whether it was a conflict of interest for Waters to ask Treasury Department officials to meet with the National Bankers Association to discuss a bank in which her husband had a financial stake.
Following the cancellation of the trial, documents surfaced that showed that the committee’s former staff director believed that the behavior of committee staffers may have compromised the investigation. Waters called for the committee to drop its case, saying her rights to a fair ethics process had been violated.
The committee in July of last year brought on Martin to review Waters’ charges. He was first tasked with reviewing the behavior of committee members and staffers before deciding whether its case against her could go forward.
The announcement earlier this week opened the door for the committee’s case to proceed.
“Mr. Martin’s engagement was not limited to a single task,” the committee reminded the lawmakers who asked to review his findings. “The first phase of his assignment was an unprecedented, thorough, and fair review of the due process complaints of the Respondent in the matter. However, that was only the first phase. Therefore Mr. Martin’s role has not yet concluded.”
The committee reiterated that the members considering the case did not participate in the investigation leading up to the canceled trial. It further noted that when the committee closes matters, it often releases a final report on the case but will not do so until that point.
“There is no justification for releasing the confidential details of staff advice to the Committee at this time,” the letter said. “We respectfully decline to provide the internal advice and memoranda of staff in this, or any, open and ongoing matter.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.