This story was updated at 9:43 a.m.
The House Ethics Committee selected a staff director and chief counsel Monday evening, ending a four-month impasse that had the panel’s investigative functions at a standstill, the House Ethics Committee said in a statement.
The panel unanimously chose Daniel Schwager, who currently serves as a counsel for the Senate Ethics Committee and previously worked in the public-integrity section of the Justice Department, the two House sources indicated. The vote on the evenly divided panel was 9-0 with Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX) absent.
Both Rep. Jo Bonner (R-AL), who chairs the panel, and its ranking member, Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA), strongly recommended Schwager, the sources told TPM.
While at Justice, Schwager prosecuted David Rosen, the national finance director for Hillary Clinton’s 2000 Senate campaign for causing false filings to be made at the Federal Election Commission that misstated contributions for a Hollywood fund-raising gala for the senator. Rosen was acquitted.
“Dan’s nonpartisan professional experience and proven leadership will ensure the committee provides a fair procedural framework for the conduct of its activities and serves the people of the United States and the members and staff of the House of Representatives in a nonpartisan manner,” Bonner said in a statement, announcing the hire.
“Throughout his impressive legal career, Dan has demonstrated a commitment to ethics and public service,” Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA) said.
In accepting the top position on the panel, Schwager reiterated his commitment to impartiality.
“I am truly honored by the committee’s vote of confidence in me and the mission of impartial integrity,” he said.
Now that the committee has a staff director, it can finally determine how to proceed in the case against Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), and whether she improperly intervened on behalf of a minority-owned bank in which her husband owns stock.
The ethics panel charged Waters with violating House rules last year, but she has vigorously fought the allegations, arguing that she was simply advocating on behalf of all minority-owned banks.
The case has become so thorny that some members and aides have argued for appointing a special counsel to handle the case after a tumultuous year that ended with the lead ethics committee attorney and an assistant on the case being placed on administrative leave over allegations that they mishandled parts of the investigation. The pair have since left the ethics committee.
Shortly after the attorneys were placed on leave, Blake Chisam, who had served as the staff director, announced his impending departure. Partisan tensions on the committee had flared so much at the time that during the week of Thanksgiving, Bonner, then the ranking Republican, had the Capitol Police lock the doors and bar anyone from entering and leaving the panel’s offices.
Since then, the committee had struggled to find a qualified candidate for the staff director post who is acceptable to both committee Republicans and Democrats, and no action has been taken in the Waters’ case. Bonner and Sanchez said they had received more than 400 resumes for the vacant counsel positions on the committee.
“After a challenging end to the 111th Congress, the committee is eager to move forward with the business of the 112th and is confident that Dan will serve the committee with integrity and without bias,” Bonner added.