WASHINGTON – Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters on Tuesday sought dismissal of House Ethics Committee allegations that she tried to obtain a federal bailout for a bank where her husband is an investor. Her lawyer said misconduct and partisanship in the committee made a fair ethics proceeding impossible.
Waters' attorney Stanley Brand cited internal documents showing a close relationship between two former committee lawyers in the case and Republican committee members. Waters, a California Democrat, is a senior member of the House Financial Services Committee.
"Based on the facts of the case and the record of committee misconduct, the only remedy that vindicates the principals of the quasi-judicial functions of the committee is immediate dismissal with prejudice. No other remedy exists to cure this misconduct," Brand said.
In a follow-up letter to the committee, Brand wrote, "This misconduct is of such a fundamentally improper level that it cannot be cured by reliance on any other device, including employment of an outside counsel. Simply put ... this committee can never conduct an impartial and unbiased inquiry into this matter."
Waters has repeatedly said she did nothing improper and had no role in the Obama administration's decision to bail out Boston-based OneUnited Bank. The congresswoman's husband, Sidney Williams, owns stock in the bank, and his investment was in danger of becoming worthless during the near-financial collapse of late 2008.
OneUnited received $12 million in bailout money in December 2008. But Treasury Department officials have told House investigators that Waters was not involved in that decision.
Waters contended she had supported legislation to help all troubled, minority-owned banks like OneUnited — and specifically those, like OneUnited, that were hurt by their investments in the then-collapsing mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Brand said that the conduct of some committee members and staff violated Waters' constitutional rights. Internal documents showed that the two former lawyers regularly corresponded exclusively last year with Rep. Jo Bonner of Alabama, then the ranking Republican and now the chairman.
The two lawyers, C. Morgan Kim and Stacy Sovereign, were suspended last year by the previous Democratic chairman, Zoe Lofgren of California. Neither accepted Bonner's offer earlier this year to reinstate them.
The committee had charged Waters with violating House rules and was ready to begin a proceeding on her conduct late last year, but the case was sent back for further investigation after the controversy erupted over the conduct of the two lawyers.
Brand said in his statement that if there is prosecutorial misconduct in a criminal case, a judge would usually dismiss the charges. He also said the case was flawed.
"Given that both current members and staff are implicated in these documents, any other suggested remedy would lack legal credibility and would confirm an unprecedented level of bias against my client," Brand added.