Washington, D.C. – Today, in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) called on both leaders to jointly appoint an outside counsel to investigate the House Ethics Committee. Read CREW’s letter here.
CREW’s call follows a report in Politico, indicating the investigation into Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) was tarred by partisanship, staff and member misconduct, and the deliberate withholding of evidence.
“More important than an inquiry into any specific member of Congress is an investigation into the committee itself,” said CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan. “At this point, who could possibly have confidence in anything that comes out of the committee? The only solution is for the Speaker and Minority Leader to hire a well-respected outside counsel to conduct a thorough and fair review and to release the results to the public.”
Last December, the Washington Post reported the Ethics Committee was in near total disarray. Today we learned that in late 2010, Blake Chisam, then-chief counsel of the committee sent a series of memos to then-Committee Chair Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) claiming the two lead attorneys handling the Waters investigation, Morgan Kim and Stacy Sovereign, breached confidentiality by providing confidential material to those not authorized to view it.
Mr. Chisam also claimed Mr. Kim and Ms. Sovereign had failed to provide Rep. Waters’ defense team with all the material to which it was entitled and had improperly accessed the computers of other committee staff members. Mr. Kim and Ms. Sovereign counterclaimed that Mr. Chisam withheld evidence against Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) and that he had tried to protect Democrats.
“CREW has been a long-time critic of Rep. Waters, but given the serious nature of the charges against the committee and its staff, we agree with the congresswoman that the current case should be closed. Outside counsel should be appointed to investigate the matter from the date of the referral by the Office of Congressional Ethics,” said Ms. Sloan. “It is depressing that even the one committee intended to protect the institution of the House as a whole has been decimated by partisan politics, further savaging the already dismal reputation of Congress.”