Partisanship must be cast aside, ethics panel orders
By The Associated Press
Published: Tuesday, September 25, 2012, 8:19 p.m.
Updated: Tuesday, September 25, 2012
WASHINGTON — Hardly any endeavor so unnerves members of Congress as policing each other's conduct. Now, a temporary ethics panel that went in to rescue a troubled investigation of senior Rep. Maxine Waters has emerged with a warning on Tuesday to avoid partisan infighting when investigating congressional wrongdoing.
New rules, it said, are needed when potential conflicts of interest arise for lawmakers and their staffs.
In fact, the House ethics committee is designed to encourage bipartisan cooperation — it has five members from each political party. But that system suffered a total breakdown in February, when political bickering caused all five Republicans and the ranking Democrat to step aside from the Waters case to avoid the public perception of a tainted investigation.
The new panel brought in to finish the Waters investigation issued a strong rebuke Tuesday, saying the ethics committee's mission “calls upon members to step out of their partisan framework....” It called for committee members to “constantly evaluate their actions ... to ensure that they are living up to the highest standards of this committee.”
The unusual statement was made amid the group's findings last week in the case of Waters, D-Calif., second-ranking Democrat on the Financial Services Committee, who could head that panel if Democrats win back the House.
Acting chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., and the top acting Democrat, John Yarmuth of Kentucky, said that the panel concluded in a 10-0 vote that there was no “clear and convincing” evidence that Waters tried to steer federal bailout money to a bank where her husband is an investor.
The temporary panel also determined unanimously that while Waters undertook efforts to avoid a conflict of interest, her chief of staff and grandson, Mikael Moore, tried to assist minority-owned OneUnited Bank despite his boss' instruction not to do so because of her husband's investment in the bank.
The committee sent Moore a letter admonishing his conduct.
The temporary panel also took aim at Waters' decision to hire her grandson as chief of staff.
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