Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) has reportedly decided to fight the ethics charges against her, becoming the second Congress member in a week to push for a public ethics trial rather than accept charges of wrongdoing.
Days after the ethics committee announced that Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) would face an adjudicatory hearing, it was reported that Waters will also be the subject of a similar ethics hearing.
Waters is accused of intervening on behalf of a bank that her husband had $250,000 worth of stock in. The bank, OneUnited, received $12 million in TARP funds after Waters set up meetings between the CEO and then-Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson. Treasury officials say Waters didn’t disclose any connection go the bank.
Waters maintains that she was properly helping a struggling minority-owned bank.
A statement of alleged violation — the ethics committee version of a complaint in criminal court — has not yet been released. The House left for August recess last Friday.
Rangel, who’s been charged with 13 ethics violations, also decided to fight the charges. His trial will likely begin in September, when lawmakers return from recess.
The Congressional Black Caucus contends that the ethics panel unfairly singles out black lawmakers, saying there’s a “dual standard.”
In a House ethics investigation, an investigatory subcommittee searches for evidence of wrongdoing, requesting documents and interviewing witnesses. The subcommittee then forwards a list of charges to an adjudicatory committee, which — by way of a public hearing, or trial — decides whether the Congressman has actually violated any rules. Then the full committee votes on a recommendation for punishment: reprimand, censure or expulsion.
The full House must then vote on their recommendation. Lawmakers can avoid the trial by settling with the committee, usually agreeing to admit wrongdoing to some or all of the charges.
A adjudicatory hearing is extremely rare. The last time one was held was in 2002 for Rep. Jim Traficant (D-OH), who was thereafter expelled from the House. Traficant had also been convicted in criminal court on 10 felony charges of bribery and racketeering, and served seven years in prison.
Both Rangel and Waters maintain their innocence and have refused to settle.