Democratic Aide Disputes GOP Charges Over Ethics Trials

Posted September 28, 2010 at 3:52pm

A senior Democratic aide disputed GOP allegations Tuesday that House ethics Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) has personally refused to set a trial date for two Democratic lawmakers.

Earlier Tuesday, Republican ethics committee members chastised Lofgren for failing to schedule the trials of Reps. Charlie Rangel (N.Y.) and Maxine Waters (Calif.) in advance of the November elections.

“Committee Rule 5(e) provides that a subcommittee — including the adjudicatory subcommittees of the Rangel and Waters trials — ‘shall meet at the discretion of its Chair,'” said a statement released by ethics ranking member Jo Bonner (R-Ala.) and other panel Republicans. “After months of trial preparation — and, in the Rangel matter, two years of investigation — Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren should have already issued notices of public trial schedules in both the Rangel and Waters matters.”

Lofgren was traveling Tuesday and not immediately available for comment.

But the senior Democratic aide criticized the Republicans’ characterization of the committee’s actions to date.

“We thought we were doing it with them in a bipartisan manner. It’s never pretty, but negotiations were ongoing,” said the aide, who also questioned the timing of the statement.
“It’s obvious they must have been under immense pressure from their leadership,” the aide added.

The aide also disputed Bonner’s statement that he consulted with Lofgren before issuing the statement per committee rules, and questioned whether any committee member other than Bonner should have signed on to a public statement regarding the looming ethics trial, pointing to the committee’s rules.

“Unless otherwise determined by a vote of the Committee, only the Chair or Ranking Minority Member of the Committee, after consultation with each other, may make public statements regarding matters before the Committee or any subcommittee,” the panel’s internal rules state.

The Republican lawmakers called on the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct to hold hearings during the October recess.

“The possibility that the House Majority Leader may call to adjourn a week early provides additional opportunities to schedule uninterrupted public meetings in the month of October, when Members are not conducting legislative business,” the Republicans’ statement reads.

An ethics subcommittee charged Rangel in July with 13 counts of wrongdoing.

A different investigative subcommittee charged Waters in August with violating the chamber’s rules over allegations that her chief of staff, Mikael Moore, tried to secure federal support for a bank in which Waters and her husband held hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of stock.