Ethics panel splits on Rangel, Waters

By Larry Margasak-Associated Press

The House ethics committee split along party lines Tuesday as Republicans demanded pre-election trials for two prominent Democrats, Charles B. Rangel and Maxine Waters.

The rift is important politically because proceedings in October could generate negative headlines for Democrats. Trials after the election would likely keep the Democrats’ ethics record in the background in midterm campaigns largely fought over economic issues.

The split dispels anew the image of the committee as a panel where members of both parties work together to investigate allegations of ethical wrongdoing.

In past years, the committee has been stymied by internal, partisan disputes over its investigative rules and by a political agreement between the parties to avoid new cases.

A statement by ranking committee Republican Jo Bonner, signed by all five Republicans on the 10-member committee, accused Chairman Zoe Lofgren, California Democrat, of stalling the Rangel and Waters cases. Both lawmakers have asked for trials before the election.

Until now, the committee has been actively issuing decisions under Mrs. Lofgren’s chairmanship, partly due to new procedures that force the panel to address recommendations of an independent ethics office run by non-lawmakers.

Mr. Rangel, of New York, is the former chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, which writes tax law. Mrs. Waters, of California, is a senior member of the House Financial Services Committee, which approved the recent overhaul of financial industry regulations and established new consumer protections.

Mr. Rangel is accused of financial wrongdoing and misuse of his office, while Mrs. Waters is charged with improperly helping a bank in which her husband owns stock receive federal financial aid.

Mrs. Lofgren was flying back to Washington for a House session and was not immediately available for comment.

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