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House Ethics, R.I.P.: Beltway Swamp Queen Maxine Waters gets off scot-free

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By Michelle Malkin  •  September 21, 2012 11:36 AM

She didn’t get a slap on the wrist. She got a kiss on the lips.

Two years after being charged with multiple ethics violations related to her meddling in minority-owned OneUnited Bank, Democrat Rep. Maxine Waters of California is walking away without a scratch. The financial institution, in which her husband had invested, received $12 million in federal TARP bailout money after Waters’ office personally intervened and lobbied the Treasury Department in 2008. Here’s the bullcrap the House Ethics Committee swallowed and regurgitated today:

A House ethics panel has determined there is no evidence that Calif. Rep. Maxine Waters violated congressional rules when she called Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson in 2008 on behalf of minority-owned banks, despite her husband’s financial stake in one troubled institution.

The finding concludes a two-year investigation in Waters’s actions that were disrupted by allegations of misconduct within a previous committee probing her conduct. A new panel created to review Waters’ sactions ultimately took the highly unusual step of hiring an outside lawyer to conduct the inquiry.

At a rare public hearing Friday, members of the committee indicated they were prepared to accept the findings of an outside lawyer hired to examine her conduct. The lawyer, Billy Martin, found that Waters believed she was intervening on behalf of all minority-owned banks—and not directly on behalf of OneUnited Bank of Boston, in which her husband held stock.

He therefore found no evidence that she knowingly violated House rules. When she learned that OneUnited, on whose board her husband once sat, was seeking federal bailout funds, she ended her involvement, Martin concluded.

Do you smell a rat? If you’ve been paying attention to my reporting here, you already know the game was rigged. The House Ethics Committee is a joke. Earlier this year, SIX House members recused themselves from the case after nearly two years of doing nothing. Flashback:

The House Ethics Committee suffers from dysfunction by design. It is chronically understaffed and underfunded. The panel most recently went without a staff director for four months. Its investigative backlog was compounded by the partisan-charged suspension of two staff attorneys last fall who were knee-deep in the Waters’ probe. And the panel’s ranking Democratic member, California Rep. Linda Sanchez, is bogged down with her own ethical conflicts of interest.

Sanchez’s chief of staff, Adam Brand, is the son of the lawyer handling Waters’ ethics defense. That lawyer, Stan Brand, also represented Sanchez and her sister, Democratic Rep. Loretta Sanchez, in a separate ethics case. The sisters engaged in smelly hiring shenanigans after an aide to Loretta embezzled money from the office account in 2006. Short of funds, Loretta “borrowed” three aides from Linda’s staff. House rules ban members from paying people to do work in offices other than their own. Miraculously, Loretta’s embezzling aide avoided jail time, and the Sanchez sisters escaped any sanctions for their payroll-sharing collusion. The House ethics opinion on the matter remains confidential.

Intended to boost voters’ confidence in Congress (now at an all-time low), the committee’s stubborn secrecy and predictable wrist-slap punishments (see “Rangel, Charlie”) only make matters worse. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: House-soilers can’t be cleaners. Voters, not Washington politicians, are the ultimate ethics committee.

The Dems who promised to drain the swamp have instead clogged it with an overflow of dreck. Remember in November.

***

A reminder of the original charges against Waters and response to her excuses. Down the memory hole:

Transcribing from the PDF of the House Ethics panel’s memorandum in support of the order rejecting Waters’ request to dismiss the case:

…the Statement of Alleged Violation asserts that the day after the Department of Treasury and the Federal Housing Finance Agency took action that threatened the viability of OneUnited Bank (OneUnited), a bank on whose board Respondent’s husband had previously served and in which Respondent’s husband held a significant investment, Respondent arranged for a meeting between executives from OneUnited and officials at the Department of Treasury. At the meeting between the OneUnited executives and Treasury officials, the executives asked Treasury for $50 million in funding for OneUnited. Treasury officials informed the executives that Treasury was not legally authorized to provide such funding. Following this direct request for funding by OneUnited executives, Respondent determined that it would be ethically improper for her to advocate on behalf of OneUnited. Despite previously instructing her Chief of Staff to work with the OneUnited executives, Respondent failed to instruct her Chief of Staff that he should not advocate on behalf of the bank. Respondent’s Chief of Staff in fact continued to do so even after Respondent determined that she could not do so.

The memo goes on to note that Waters’ chief of staff was heavily involved in proposing legislative solutions and communicating with other congressional staff about those solutions. And most notably, Waters’ chief of staff was thanked by OneUnited executives for helping to raise $17 million in private funding — in addition to the $12 million in TARP bailout money that OneUnited eventually secured after the Waters-brokered meeting.

The memo also responds to Waters’ claim that she did not benefit from her intervention:

…the fact that the value of Respondent’s shares of OneUnited stock did not change after receipt of TARP funds does not show that Respondent did not benefit from OneUnited’s receipt of TARP funds. This retention of value is the benefit Respondent received….the Investigative Committee concluded that OneUnited was under eminent threat of failure, and that Representative Waters, through her husband, had a significant financial interest in OneUnited, which would have been worthless if the bank had failed…this created the appearance that Respondent was improperly using official resources for her own narrow financial interest.”

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Previous:

August 17, 2012 The Liberal Sisterhood of the Plundering Hacks
February 7, 2012 Culture of corruption: What’s happening with the Maxine Waters ethics case?!
April 27, 2011 – Maxine Waters, Swamp Queen
November 19, 2010 – Culture of corruption: Maxine Waters ethic trial delayed
August 13, 2010 – The Mad Maxine Waters show; Update: “I won’t cut a deal”
August 9, 2010 – Summer of Corruption: Maxine Waters’ zombie deadbeat bank; Update: House Ethics panel releases charges
August 4, 2010 – Mad Maxine’s minority fat-cat bankers
August 3, 2010 – Maxine, Barney, Fannie, Freddie & TARP Hanky-Panky
July 31, 2010 – Summer of Corruption: Maxine Waters/OneUnited Bank refresher course
October 30, 2009 – Culture of corruption: Democrats Maxine Waters and Laura Richardson under investigation
March 13, 2009 – Congresswoman Bank of OneUnited responds
Culture of corruption: Banking hypocrite Maxine Waters

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