Post-Election Ethics Trials Set for Rangel, Waters

Larry Margasak, Washington Post, October 7, 2010

Ethics trials for two prominent House Democrats were set Thursday for after the midterm elections, depriving Republicans of headlines that could become campaign ads.

An angry Rep. Zoe Lofgren, the House ethics committee chairwoman, unilaterally announced the mid-to-late November proceedings for Charles Rangel of New York and Maxine Waters of California.

Lofgren, D-Calif., in a written statement, said the five Republicans on the 10-member committee blindsided her last week–when they publicly requested pre-election trials. Republicans made the request while Lofgren was flying from California to Washington.

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The trials will determine whether Rangel and Waters violated standards of conduct. Rangel is a senior member and former chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, while Waters has a senior position on the Financial Services Committee.

The trials, officially called adjudicatory hearings, will begin Nov. 15 for Rangel and Nov. 29 for Waters. Rangel is accused of financial and fundraising improprieties and Waters is charged with improperly helping a bank where her husband has an investment.

Waters said in a statement, “I will defend myself vigorously because I have not violated any House rules, and I will not allow anyone to suggest my life’s work has been motivated by anything other than the public interest. The facts and the evidence are on my side: No benefit, no improper action, no failure to disclose, no one influenced: no case.”

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While Rangel and Waters had requested pre-election proceedings, Lofgren said in a written statement that Republicans went public without her approval, despite numerous bipartisan meetings to reach a consensus. She called the Republican unilateral statement unprecedented.

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If violations are proven, the ethics committee would conduct a hearing on punishment. The committee could issue a report criticizing the member’s conduct or recommend greater punishment to the full House–including a vote to censure a lawmaker or, in rare cases, expulsion.

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