Politics

Waters Slams Ethics Committee Over Attorney Suspensions

Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif. holds a press conference to defend herself on ethics charges, Friday, August 13, 2010. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif. holds a press conference to defend herself on ethics charges, Friday, August 13, 2010. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)  (AP2010)

Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., blasted the House Ethics Committee Wednesday afternoon after press reports revealed that two lawyers working on her case had been placed on administrative leave after committing legal missteps during the course of their investigation.

"We don't know the specifics, but we know that the integrity of the Committee and its investigative process have been compromised," Waters said in a statement. "From the beginning, I have been concerned with the Committee's unsupported conclusions, often contradictory arguments, and unfounded negative inferences. It now seems that these concerns were justified, as the Committee's sanctioning of its own attorneys is an acknowledgement of flaws and failures in the Committee's processes and handling of my case."

Cindy Morgan Kim, the lead attorney on the Waters matter, and Stacy Sovereign, another lawyer on the case, were placed on administrative leave on Nov. 19, the same day Ethics Committee Chair Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., and Ranking Member Jo Bonner, R-Ala., announced an indefinite suspension of the public trial. Public proceedings were originally scheduled to begin Nov. 29.

The removal of two lead attorneys on the case is a bad omen for the committee, and may lead to a reduced penalty if not an outright dismissal of the case against the California lawmaker.

Waters is accused of violating three different ethics rules in helping to arrange a meeting between Treasury Department officials and representatives of OneUnited Bank. Waters' husband previously served on the bank's board of directors and owns hundreds of thousands of dollars in OneUnited stock.

Waters insists that she was representing the interests of minority banks in general, and showed no favoritism to OneUnited.

She has accused the committee of denying her right to due process by delaying the trial.

Waters' cited the suspension of Kim and Sovereign as more evidence that the charges against her are without merit.

"From the beginning, I have been concerned with the Committee's unsupported conclusions, often contradictory arguments, and unfounded negative inferences," she said "It now seems that these concerns were justified, as the Committee's sanctioning of its own attorneys is an acknowledgement of flaws and failures in the Committee's processes and handling of my case."

Requests to the Ethics Committee for comment were not answered.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., called the allegations "disturbing" but said that he still has "confidence in the Ethics Committee" to do its job.

The charges of misconduct came to light just days after the panel's recommendation to censure Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., for ethics violations.