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Congresswoman Waters to Face Public Ethics Trial

The House Ethics Committee announced Monday that Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., will face a public trial for her alleged role in steering federal bailout funds to a bank with ties to her husband.

The charges against the 10-term congresswoman were filed last week by a four-member investigatory subcommittee, following a preliminary investigation last year conducted by the Office of Congressional Ethics.

The OCE produced an 80-page-report last August, which was released by the Ethics Committee on Monday. In it, Waters is accused of violating “House precedent regarding conflicts of interest” by helping to arrange meetings between Treasury Department officials and representatives of minority-owned banks, including OneUnited Bank.

OneUnited eventually received $12.1 million in bailout funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Fund.

At the time, Waters’ husband, Sidney Williams held two investments in OneUnited valued at between $500,000 and $1 million. Williams also had been a member of OneUnited’s board of directors for several years.

In a forceful statement denying the charges, Waters said, “I have not violated any House rules. Therefore, I simply will not be forced to admit to something I did not do and instead have chosen to respond to charges made by the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct in a public hearing.”

Waters added: “No benefit, no improper action, no failure to disclose, no one influenced: no case.”

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., will chair the bipartisan eight-member subcommittee that will conduct the trial against Waters, while Rep. Jo Bonner, R-Ala., will serve as the ranking member.

Lofgren has also been tasked with serving as chair of the subcommittee handling the ethics trial for Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y. Last week, the ethics committee laid out 13 alleged violations against the 20-term congressman, including failure to disclose more than $600,000 in assets and income, and misuse of a rent-controlled New York apartment for a campaign office.

The Rangel case is scheduled to resume moving forward in September. In its statement today, the ethics committee gave no indication whether the Waters’ case would proceed at the same time, or come after Rangel’s trial has been completed.