Rep. Waters wants ethics charges droppedBy Blackvoicenews.com | Last updated: Aug 11, 2011 - 11:36:25 AM
In a letter addressed to the chairman of the House Ethics Committee, Republican Jo Bonner of Alabama, and the committee's top Democrat, Linda Sanchez, Waters' attorney Stanley Brand cited internal documents showing a close relationship between two former committee lawyers in the case and Republican committee members, saying “any further action by the committee would be “irremediably tainted and without legal foundation.”
Rep. Waters is a senior member of the House Financial Services Committee. The committee alleges that she tried to obtain a federal bailout for a minority-owned bank where her husband is an investor.
“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,” Atty. Brand wrote.
Rep. Waters has repeatedly denied wrongdoing, saying she 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 Rep. Waters was not involved in that decision.
Rep. 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.
Atty. Brand said internal documents showed that the two former lawyers regularly corresponded exclusively last year with Rep. Bonner, then the ranking Republican and now the ethics 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 Atty. Bonner's offer earlier this year to reinstate them.
The committee had charged Rep. 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.
Atty. 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,” Atty. Brand added.
Meanwhile ethics watchdogs are calling on Rep. Bonner to step down as chairman of the House Ethics Committee—at least temporarily—for his role in the ongoing turmoil over Rep. Waters' case.
“I think there needs to be an investigation into the whole matter, including Mr. Bonner's role and that Mr. Bonner should step aside during the course of that investigation,” said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
“If Mr. Bonner is found to have broken the committee's rules, he should be sanctioned by the full House.”
Black America needs to monitor congressional probes (FCN, 08-04-2010)