Democrats support Maxine Waters in ethics flap

Rachel Rose Hartman
The Ticket

House Democrats this week rallied behind California Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters following an announcement by the ethics committee that it did not violate the congresswoman's rights during their pursuit of her case.

A total of 68 Democrats signed a letter Thursday calling on the bipartisan House Ethics Committee to release their report-- which the committee says found that their staff  did not violate Waters' due process rights.

"Without the public, the Congress and Rep. Waters being able to review the findings included in the report, the integrity of the committee's process will be further called into question," the letter states.*

Ethics watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), which has been highly critical of Waters, also called on the committee to release the report, citing past questions regarding the committee's conduct:

The committee should immediately release the report both to restore public confidence in the committee process and to allow Rep. Waters to respond.  Both the public and Ms. Waters have a right to know what confidential information was leaked and what "racially insensitive" remarks were made and by whom.  Given the committee's troubled handling of the Waters matter, "trust us," doesn't cut it.

Ethics watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which has been highly critical of Waters, also called on the committee to release the report.

Last July, the committee hired outside counsel to investigate whether their staff mismanaged Waters' case, which centers on whether Waters used her political position to improperly advocate on behalf of a bank in which her husband was financially invested. Waters was charged in Aug. 2010 of three ethics violations, but the committee soon delayed the start of her House trial citing new evidence and the case has been on hold ever since. In July 2011, a former chief counsel for the committee alleged committee lawyers secretly shared investigation information with Republicans on the committee-- prompting the committee to investigate allegations of misconduct. Waters, who is black, alleged racial insensitivity in addition to a failure to conduct a speedy trial.

The House Ethics Committee has long faced criticism for failing to reach speedy conclusions, meting out weak penalties, misconduct, and for general disorder all while the committee continues to be undermined by members on both sides of the aisle.

*Update 3:40 p.m. ET: The Committee Friday afternoon issued a public refusal to release "internal advice and memoranda" related to the investigation of the committee's conduct in Waters' case. The committee said no actual "report" was produced by attorney Billy Martin, who was reportedly paid $500,000-$800,000 for his investigative work.