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The second Democrat in the House of Representatives to face an ethics trial in the fall wants the charges against her made public and her trial to begin before the November 2 congressional elections, an aggressive defense that may lead to intra-party squabbling.
“I am confident that once the subcommittee report is released and I am able to present my case, my constituents and all Americans will understand that I have not violated any House rules,” U.S. congresswoman Maxine Waters wrote in a Wednesday letter to the House ethics panel.
The panel on Monday said it had found evidence of undisclosed ethics violations by the California lawmaker, who denied breaking any rules in setting up a 2008 meeting between a banker and the U.S. treasury secretary and vowed to contest the allegations in a public trial.
Under the House rules, the charges are to remain sealed until the first procedural meeting of the trial, which is not expected to come until September at the earliest.
Waters said she would be willing to waive her right to secrecy and wants the committee to make the official charges and supporting documents made public.
“I feel strongly that further delay in the scheduling of the hearing violates the fundamental principles of due process, denies my constituents the opportunity to evaluate this case, and harms my ability to defend my integrity,” Waters wrote.
A source familiar with the ethics process said the 10-term lawmaker has been charged with three violations.
Those include violating a rule that lawmakers may not get a personal gain from improper influence and violating a rule that lawmaker conduct must reflect creditably on the House. They also include violating the ethics code of government workers, which bans acceptance of special favors for workers or their family members that could be seen as influencing official actions.
The Waters case comes on the heels of 13 charges against New York’s Charles Rangel, the former head of the tax-writing committee. Rangel’s trial is expected to begin in September.
The two lawmakers are under intense pressure from fellow Democrats to cut a deal to avoid the spectacle of a public trial, though that appears unlikely.
Both Rangel and Waters are members of the Congressional Black Caucus, making the cases highly sensitive as Democrats are working to get a big voter turnout by black Americans, one of their traditional constituencies.
The ethics charges were an embarrassment for Democrats, who face substantial losses in the chamber in November and whose leader, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, had pledged to “drain the swamp” of corruption resulting from a dozen years of Republican domination that ended in 2006.
Democrats hold 255 seats in the House, 77 more than minority Republicans, but are facing a wave of anti-incumbent anger over a weak economy and sustained high unemployment.
Voters will vote for all 435 House seats and choose 37 of 100 senators in the mid-term congressional elections.
Copyright © 2010 Reuters