Ethics Committee makes it official: Maxine Waters cleared, chief of staff reprimanded

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-LA) has ben officially cleared by the House Ethics Committee on conflict-of-interest charges
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-LA) has ben officially cleared by the House Ethics Committee on conflict-of-interest charges
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The statement Tuesday morning from the House Ethics Committee makes it official: Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-LA) has been cleared of accusations she violated House rules. Her chief of staff receives a letter of reproval for his role in assisting the bank in which Waters' husband owned stock.

It was exactly the outcome hinted at on Friday.

The statement from the top Republican and Democrat on the House Ethics Committee says there is no "clear and convincing evidence" that the 11-term Congresswoman used her political clout to help OneUnited Bank, a financial institution in which her husband owned $350 thousand in stock. The report says Waters "recognized and made efforts to avoid a conflict of interest" by calling a colleague on the House Financial Services Committee to express concerns that her efforts to help an association of minority bankers included OneUnited.

The Ethics Committee statement says Waters' grandson and chief of staff, Mikael Moore, continued to take "certain actions on behalf of OneUnited when he knew or should have known" of his family's financial interest. The Committee also suggested looking at House policies regarding grandchildren, which "can be just as fraught with risk" as other family relationships.

Melanie Sloan, head of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, says while Moore is "undoubtedly capable and competent, his employment in his grandmother’s office set the stage for potential problems. In light of this case, perhaps now the Administration Committee will add grandchildren to the list of relatives members may not employ."

Six members of the House Ethics Committee recused themselves from the investigation. Their replacements had a few suggestions for the Committee itself, mostly about the bitter partisan divide that stalled the Waters investigation for nearly three years.

The suggestions:

- Step out of your partisan framework, leave your political party at the door. And that goes to staff as well.
- Don't just rely on staff from one party.
- Avoid hiring staff that served on partisan staff.
- If you become aware of racially insensitive or other inappropriate remarks coming from staff, deal with it in a nonpartisan manner.

The recommendations are designed to help clear the air, saying "members or staff are far more likely to begin to view any disagreement as a partisan issue, leading to suspicion and distrust."