Ethics Committee Starts Probes of Two Lawmakers, Defers Another One

The House ethics committee announced Wednesday that it is extending probes into two lawmakers -- Democrat Maxine Waters of California and Republican Sam Graves of Missouri -- in unrelated cases while it deferred investigation into a case involving Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.

The Committee on Standards of Official Conduct did not say why it was extending the probes, but that they related to an unannounced question surrounding the conduct of Waters and an unspecified matter regarding Graves.

In a news release the panel said the committee extended the probe into Graves for 45 days even though the Office of Congressional Ethics did not find a "substantial reason to believe" that the lawmaker was guilty of any misconduct and had found information "that may contain exculpatory evidence" which was never provided to Graves. 

In his own release, Graves indicated that the investigation related to testimony he requested while ranking member of the Small Business Committee. That testimony on renewable fuels last March was delivered by Graves' friend Brooks Hurst. Graves' wife and Hurst are investors together in renewable fuels plants in Missouri, Roll Call newspaper reported Wednesday.  

"I look forward to a quick review of the facts and answering any questions that the committee may have. I believe that a speedy review will show that all the rules of the House concerning testimony in front of the Small Business Committee were followed," Graves said.

Like Graves, the probe into Waters was extended for 45 days. A statement by the panel on Waters gave no indication what the probe was covering, but it is possible that Waters is under investigation for her role in the decision to provide $12 million in federal bailout funds to OneUnited Bank, where her husband, Sidney Williams, had served on the board and owned a minimum of $500,000 in stock in 2007. 

The investigation into whether Jackson, D-Ill., offered to raise money for disgraced former Gov. Rod Blagojevich in exchange to succeed President Obama in the Senate has been deferred at the request of the Justice Department.

The committee said it "will continue to monitor the situation and will consider pursuing avenues of inquiry that it concludes do not interfere with the activities of the Department of Justice."

FOX News' Chad Pergram contributed to this report.