Ethics panel restarts probe into Rep. Waters after recusal of 6 members

The House ethics committee is starting over with its probe of Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., after six of the 10 members on the investigating panel recused themselves.

In doing so, the committee declared the equivalent of a mistrial. A new committee will be impaneled to investigate the ethics questions surrounding Waters.

The committee formally launched a probe of Waters in 2010. She was accused of trying to use her influence to secure bailout money for a financial institution in her district -- she owned stock in the institution, and her husband served on its board of directors.

What's known as an investigative subcommittee had already been put together. But it came to light that the committee used inappropriate standards to go after Waters.

In 2010, there was indication that then-committee staffers Morgan Kim and Stacy Sovereign may have tainted the panel's inquiry into Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y. Kim also headed the Waters probe. The Ethics Committee suspended both.

They no longer work on the ethics committee, but at that point, Waters asked that her case be dropped. The committee finally brought in attorney Billy Martin to serve as an independent counsel to handle the Waters case.

In the formal announcement Friday by the committee, which was read on the House floor, Martin recommended that all panel members involved in the case step aside -- which they did.

The report from the panel said the move was taken "out of an abundance of caution" and does indicate any wrongdoing. The panel went on to say that a request for these recusuals "is an extremely rare occurrence."

The lawmakers who have stepped aside are: Reps. Jo Bonner, R-Ala.; Linda Sanchez, D-Calif.; Michael McCaul, R-Texas; Mike Conaway, R-Texas; Charlie Dent, R-Pa.; and Greg Harper, R-Miss.

Replacement lawmakers on the investigating panel have already been named.

A spokesman for Waters had no immediate comment about these developments.

In August 2010, Waters defended herself and said she had not violated any House rules.

"Neither my staff nor I engaged in any improper behavior," she said.