US Rep. Maxine Waters speaks at the funeral of singer Etta James in the City Of Refuge Church on January 28, 2012 in Gardena, California. (Getty Images)
WASHINGTON -- The House Ethics Committee announced it will hold a long-delayed public hearing Friday on ethics charges against Rep. Maxine Waters.
Waters, D-Calif., faces 2-year-old ethics charges that her grandson -- who serves as her chief of staff -- pressured the Treasury Department to give a bailout to a bank in which Waters' husband held stock and had served on the board of directors. Waters has said she did nothing more than advocate for fair treatment of minority-owned banks. The case has been mired in controversy.
The committee scheduled a public hearing on the matter -- essentially an ethics "trial" -- for November 2010, but abruptly canceled it, apparently because staff had mishandled evidence in the case. Two committee staffers were suspended, and the committee hired an independent investigator to look into the conduct of the committee and determine whether the case could still go forward.
The last public hearing held by the Ethics Committee â?? the first such hearing since 2002 -- was the 2010 trial of Rep. Charlie Rangel, a New York Democrat. He was found guilty of 11 ethics violations, including failing to publicly disclose rental income and soliciting charitable donations from people with business before Congress, and was censured on the House floor.
Both Waters and Rangel are black, and Congressional Black Caucus chairman Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., has raised concerns that the ethics committee is disproportionately targeting black members.
In August, a third black lawmaker, Rep. Laura Richardson, D-Calif., was reprimanded by the House at the suggestion of the Ethics Committee for pressuring her staff to work on her political campaigns. She avoided a public hearing by accepting the penalty and agreeing to pay a $10,000 fine.