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Ethics Proceeding Against Congresswoman Waters Cancelled

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Special to the NNPA from the AFRO-American Newspaper –

The House ethics subcommittee cancelled the Nov. 29 hearing that was scheduled to consider allegations of ethics impropriety against California Democrat Rep. Maxine Waters.

The Committee on Standards of Official Conduct panel said in a statement it postponed an adjudicatory hearing, the equivalent of a trial by the committee, because new evidence has surfaced. The matter has been referred back to investigators.

The California congresswoman decried the delay, saying it showed “a complete disregard for due process and fairness” given that the investigation began more than a year ago.

“Today, the Committee has brought discredit upon itself and this institution by denying me, and more importantly my constituents, the right to set the record straight,” she said in a statement.

Waters became a target of the ethics panel over allegations that she helped OneUnited, a Massachusetts-based, minority-owned bank in which her husband owned stock and once served as a board member, received $12 million in bailout funds.

The congresswoman was accused of arranging a meeting between the Black-owned bank officials and Secretary of Treasury Henry Paulson in 2008 without disclosing her husband’s history with the company.

The Wall Street Journal, one of two newspapers that chronicled the receipt of $12 million in federal money under the Troubled Asset Relief Program, has pointed out that members of Congress may vote on matters that affect their financial holdings. But, the paper noted that the rules are unclear about the role members of Congress can play in contacting executive branch agencies about firms in which they have a financial stake.

The Congressional Black Caucus member has maintained that her efforts to ensure that the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act assisted small and minority institutions were not solely on behalf of OneUnited.

“As the highest ranking African-American and woman on the Financial Services Committee, my staff and I did what we said we did and what we have always done, which is provide a voice in the process for those who lack it,” she said.

The evidence referred to by the committee is, according to the Associated Press, an e-mail that, the wire service says, shows Waters, a senior member of the House Financial Services Committee, followed the drafting of language in the bank bailout bill that would have affected OneUnited. The newly discovered document—which Waters said the committee actually had since Oct. 29—will likely support her claims, she added.

“If this evidence is so damning, the Committee should present its case before the public, as we asked them to do when I first learned of their desire to postpone the hearing. Apparently the Committee now recognizes, as I have maintained, that there was no benefit, no improper action, no failure to disclose, no one influenced, and there is no case.”

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