WASHINGTON (AP) — California Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters won't be charged with ethics violations following allegations she steered a $12 million federal bailout to a bank where her husband owns stock.
House Ethics Committee members said Friday at a hearing their investigation found no violation by Waters, a senior member of the House Financial Services Committee. She could become the panel's senior Democrat next year, or the chairwoman, if Democrats win control of the House.
However, the ethics panel said that Waters' chief of staff, Mikael Moore, did take actions in Congress in an attempt to help the bank and that he violated House standards of conduct. Moore, who is also Waters' grandson, likely will receive a letter admonishing him for his conduct but will not face more severe punishment, such as a reprimand, by the full House.
The next step is for the committee to vote to issue its final report and send Moore the letter.
The case has been beset by internal partisanship that led to all five committee Republicans and the top Democrat stepping aside in the case last February in favor of substitutes, to leave no questions about the committee's impartiality.
An outside counsel, Billy Martin, was hired to investigate the committee first and then to investigate the substance of the case. He found no wrongdoing by the committee, which had never hired an outside lawyer to investigate itself.
Virginia Republican Rep. Bob Goodlatte, acting chairman of the panel specifically for the Waters case, announced the tentative findings at the hearing but noted the committee had not issued its final report.
Goodlatte said the committee was convinced that when Waters asked for a meeting at the Treasury Department to discuss financial help for minority banks, she believed she did so on behalf of all minority banks — not just OneUnited, where her husband owns stock. Goodlatte said the committee agreed with Waters' assertion.
The acting chairman said that when Waters realized OneUnited was in serious trouble, she told then-chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., to handle any further matters in the case. Goodlatte said, however, that Moore continued efforts in Congress to get committee help for OneUnited, even sending the committee staff an email saying, "OneUnited is in trouble."
Waters did not testify at the hearing, but Moore defended himself, saying he violated no House rules. He insisted his actions were not aimed at helping OneUnited and said he received no financial gain.