Ethics Committee (Finally) Staffs Up Amid Trial Delays

Waters photoLast week’s announcement by the House Ethics Committee that it is investigating Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY), a year after questions about his finances were in the headlines, has put the spotlight back on the Committee’s ability to do its job.

The Committee recently hired 10 new and internal counsels, bumping their staff up to 23 members. But even with the beefed-up staff, the status of other, more high profile cases is still unknown.

It’s taken about seven months for the Ethics Committee to hire new staffers since the chief counsel staff director resigned and two senior counsels were placed on administrative leave due to reported disagreements regarding Rep Maxine Waters’ (D-Calif.) trial. The staff delays have been cited as a reason for the postponed trials of Waters and former Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.).

Ethics Chairman Jo Bonner (R-Ala.) released a statement claiming that the 10 new appointees will permit the …

Maxine Waters Backs Off Call for Investigation of House Ethics Committee

Waters photoRep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) has abandoned her efforts to launch an investigation of the House Ethics Committee, which announced it was indefinitely delaying its trial of the congresswoman in late November. Waters was charged over the summer with helping to steer $12 million in federal bailout funds to OneUnited Bank, a bank in which her husband held a considerable financial stake.

On Tuesday, Waters introduced legislation that would create a bipartisan task force to investigate the trial cancelation, which she claims was halted because the ethics committee had insufficient evidence that she violated congressional rules. But today Waters backed away from this measure, announcing that she wouldn’t be calling it to a vote.

The ethics committee has yet to explain the reason for the abrupt trial postponement, but there are indications it may be related to the conduct of two of the committee’s attorneys, who have since been suspended.

There …

Rep. Maxine Waters Trial Postponed in Light of New Evidence

Waters photoThe House Ethics Committee abruptly postponed the high-profile ethics trial of Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) on Friday, after new evidence came to light which may contradict some of the congresswoman’s previous claims. The Democratic lawmaker is being charged with helping to steer more than $12 million in federal bailout funds to One United, a bank in which her husband had a substantial financial stake.

The New York Times reported on Friday that emails show that Waters’ office may have been advocating on behalf of OneUnited for longer than she previously admitted. Emails reportedly show that Waters’ chief of staff Mikael Moore was actively involved in discussing details of the bank bailout with members of the House Finiancial Services Committee, after Waters told Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) that she would halt her involvement in banking matters that might conflict with her husband’s financial dealings.

These documents “may directly contradict a bit …

Will Ethics Committee Investigate New Allegation Against Maxine Waters?

The House Ethics Committees says it will take up its charges against Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) following its trial of Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY). But what exactly will it consider?

Last August, the congresswoman was charged with violating House ethics rules, for allegedly helping to steer over $12 million in federal bailout funds to a bank in which her husband had a substantial financial stake. Investigators say that Rep. Waters violated conflict-of-interest rules when she set up a meeting between OneUnited Bank officials and the U.S. Treasury Department.

In the interim, the Washington Times reported that Waters co-sponsored legislation that directly benefited one of the top clients of a lobbying group that had her husband on the payroll.

Lobbying records show that lobbyist Mike Roos paid Rep. Waters’ husband Sidney Williams $15,000 for his work as a consultant on a Los Angeles real estate project during the first quarter of …

CBC Scholarship Scandal Deepens

Sanford Bishop photoA flurry of documents publicized this week appears to show further corruption within the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s scholarship program.

Letters written by CBC member Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and released by her GOP election opponent this week suggest that the congresswoman was more intimately involved with steering $31,000 in CBC scholarships to family members and associates than she previously admitted. The two letters, sent by Rep. Johnson to the CBC Foundation, ask that the organization send the scholarship money directly to her two grandsons and two grand-nephews instead of to their colleges.

And records from the CBC Foundation revealed that another caucus member, Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-GA), in photo, also gave three scholarships to his stepdaughter and wife’s niece between 2003 and 2005.

The CBC’s anti-nepotism rule bars members from awarding scholarships to family members or the family members of their staff.

While Rep. Johnson previously said that …

Rep. Johnson Gave 23 Scholarships to Relatives and Associates

Eddie Bernice Johnson photoCongressional Black Caucus member Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) has admitted to steering 23 scholarships worth over $25,000 to two grandchildren, two great nephews and the children of a top aide over the past four years.

The scholarships came from a non-profit affiliate of the CBC called the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, which Rep. Johnson sat on the board of from 2005 to 2008. The Texas congresswoman’s family members and aides’ children were considered ineligible for the scholarships under the foundation’s anti-nepotism rules.

Each member of the CBC is allotted $10,000 a year to dispense in scholarships. The scholarships Rep. Johnson gave to friends and family members from 2005 to 2009 totaled over half of the foundation money she was responsible for allocating during that time period.

“It is inappropriate for a lawmaker to certify the award of a scholarship to a relative in a situation where the lawmaker or …

Waters Offers ‘Outside the Box’ Defense to Ethics Charges

Waters photoRep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) held a press conference Friday to refute charges that she gave political help to a bank with ties to her husband, just days after another House Democrat, Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), also defended himself against ethics charges in an unusually public manner.

“What I’m doing now is outside of the box, beyond what’s normally done,” said Waters at the 90-minute press conference, which included an extensive slide-show disputing House Ethics Committee allegations that she helped secure over $12 million in federal bailout funds for OneUnited Bank, a bank in which her husband had a substantial financial stake.

Investigators charge that Waters violated conflict-of-interest rules when she set up a meeting between OneUnited Bank officials and the U.S. Treasury Department, but the congresswoman claims that she had no role in obtaining the funds for the bank.

“Neither my staff nor I engaged in any improper behavior,” said …

Rep. Maxine Waters Charged with Violations by Ethics Committee

Waters photoThe House ethics committee announced Monday that it is charging Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) with congressional rules violations, just days after another House Democrat, Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), was also hit with ethics charges by the committee.

The ethics committee has not released the details of Rep. Waters’ alleged violations, but the charges are believed to stem from the congresswoman’s suspected attempt to obtain bailout funds for a bank where her husband served as a boardmember.

Rep. Waters has denied the allegations, and said she will fight them in a public hearing.

“I have not violated any House rules,” said Rep. Waters, in a statement released on her website Monday. “Therefore, I simply will not be forced to admit to something I did not do and instead have chosen to respond to charges made by the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct in a public hearing.”

Just last Thursday, …