Dems face new ethics charges 

The House ethics committee is poised to announce corruption charges against Rep. Maxine Waters on Monday, deepening the embarrassment the Democratic Party faces three months ahead of critical midterm elections.

Waters, D-Calif., would join Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., in fighting charges of misconduct in office. Both members could face ethics trials in the House before November.

House officials told The Washington Examiner that the charges of violating House rules will be released on Monday. Waters, a 10-term lawmaker from Los Angeles who is a senior member of the powerful House Financial Services Committee, is determined to fight the charges rather than admit guilt and accept a reprimand, censure or some other punishment to be meted out by the ethics panel, officials said.

The charges stem from efforts by Waters in 2008 to help secure $12 million in federal bailout funds for a troubled bank tied to her husband, who is a bank investor and former board member of Boston-based lender UnitedOne.

Waters, 71, who heads the Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity, has denied doing anything wrong.

She would become just the third lawmaker since 2002 to defend herself in an open ethics committee hearing, which puts the Democratic Party's struggle to retain a majority in the House in even greater jeopardy.

"This will be a huge distraction at the very least," top Democratic strategist Doug Schoen told The Examiner. "To have two ethics trials ongoing during the fall campaign, which will be very challenging in and of itself."

House Democrats took control of the House in 2006 after a campaign in which the party promised to end corruption in Congress. Dozens of seats are vulnerable to GOP takeover in the upcoming midterm elections.

On Sunday, Pelosi addressed her party's looming ethical problems on ABC's "This Week", when host Christiane Amanpour asked how her "affection and respect for [Rangel] square with what's going on right now and what you said and declared, that this is going to be the most ethical Congress, that you're going to drain the swamp of any kind of wrongdoing and corruption?"

While President Obama on Saturday suggested the 20-term lawmaker should resign and "end his career with dignity," Pelosi said she is leaving the matter up to the ethics committee, but she hinted Rangel should think about stepping aside for the sake of the House.

"When I came in, I said we're draining the swamp, and we did. We have passed the most sweeping ethics reform in the history of the Congress," Pelosi said. "Any personal respect and affection we may have for people makes us sad about the course of events, but we have to uphold a high ethical standard, and none of our personalities is more important than that."

The charges against Waters threaten to put the Democrats' ethical troubles in the headlines for the second week in a row. Last week, Rangel, the former chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, refused to admit to charges that he failed to pay taxes or improperly leased rent-stabilized apartments.

He also denies the ethics charges that he used his position on the powerful tax-writing committee to help several large companies with favorable tax legislation in exchange for big donations to a school named in his honor.

sferrechio@dcexaminer.com

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