The flimsy case against Maxine Waters just got flimsier. Revelations about the poor judgment and dishonesty of Waters' accusers reinforces the impression that the ethics investigation of the esteemed South Central L.A. Congresswoman is nothing more than a witch hunt.
The Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), the independent panel that accused Congresswoman Waters of misconduct, has a problem with facts. The OCE has no punitive power; it merely investigates and reports its findings to the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct (call 'em the House ethics committee, for short) which can then convene a trial. But, as banking columnist David Federer points out on The Huffington Post, the OCE has a record of screwing things up.
Last November, the OCE claimed that California Rep. Pete Stark improperly received a tax credit by claiming that a home he owns in Harwood, Maryland is his primary residence. But the house ethics committee cleared Stark of that charge and slammed the OCE for getting it wrong. The commitee's report stated: "The evidence clearly establishes that Representative Stark did not receive a tax credit as a result of filing an application for the credit... Representative Stark did not seek out the Maryland property tax credit... Therefore, Representative Stark did not violate House ethics rules. Nor did he run afoul of Maryland's criminal or tax laws."
But wait! There's more!
Three months before the OCE issued its false report on Pete Stark, the panel accused Missouri Congressman Sam Graves of wrongdoing in a case that seems to mirror the Maxine Waters affair. The OCE alleged that Graves violated House ethics rules by inviting a representative from the Missouri Soybean Association to testify before the House Committee on Small Business. The Soybean guy, Brooks Hurst, held stock in two biofuel plants where Rep. Graves and his wife also had investments. According to the OCE, having Hurst testify to the small business committee gave the "appearance of a conflict of interest" for Graves. Not an actual conflict of interest, but simply the "appearance" of one. Once again, the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct ruled that the OCE was wrong. The committee concluded that Rep. Graves and his wife did not benefit from having Hurst testify and that House ethics rules do not prohibit the "appearance of a conflict of interest."
I predict a similar ruling in the Maxine Waters case. Neither she nor her husband got anything out of the meeting Waters arranged between Treasury Department officials and leaders of the National Bankers Association – even though Waters' husband was a stockholder and former board member of OneUnited Bank, which was a focus of discussion in that meeting. Moreover, Rep. Waters' setting up the sit-down between Treasury and the NBA was no more improper for than was Rep. Graves inviting the Soybean Association rep to testify.
Perhaps this is why the House ethics committee has declined to set a date for Maxine Waters' trial or to even release the specific allegations against her. Perhaps, given the OCE's questionable record, the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct suspects that the Waters matter – like the Stark and Graves cases – is built on the crumbly foundation of falsehood, misinterpretation of facts and misapplication of the rules. In other words, the OCE may have made a mountain out of a molehill...again.
Thanks for listening. I'm Cameron Turner and that's my two cents.
[Read more "Turner's Two Cents" on www.EURweb.com and www.PasadenaJournal.com. Cameron Turner's weekly television appearances on "The Filter with Fred Roggin" at www.NBCLA.com.]