Democratic Ethical Zinger

The ethical heat got turned up on two Democrats from California in the U.S. House on Thursday, as the ethics committee voted to investigate Rep. Maxine Waters and Rep. Laura Richardson.

Waters has drawn ethics scrutiny because of contacts she had with the Treasury Department last year, in which she contacted officials for the OneUnited bank.  Her husband serves on the bank's operating board.

"I am confident that as the investigation moves forward the panel will discover that there are no facts to support allegations that I have acted improperly," Waters said in a written statement.

She is a subcommittee chair on the Financial Services Committee in the House.

Richardson's investigation centers on her house in Sacramento, which was foreclosed.  She later bought it back.

The investigation will check whether "Representative Richardson received an impermissible "gift" or received preferential treatment from her lender relating to the foreclosure, rescission of the foreclosure sale or loan modification agreement."

That came as the committee closed a probe into Rep. Sam Graves (R-KS), who had drawn scrutiny over an invite he made for Congressional testimony.

It was another reminder that Democrats have stacked up a series of ethics cases, much like Republicans did in the year before they lost their majorities in the 2006 elections.

Other investigations center on Rep. John Murtha (D-PA), Rep. Peter Visclosky (D-IN), Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-WV) and Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY).

More interesting than the announcements about Waters and Richardson was an exchange on the House floor on Thursday by the top Democrat and Republican on the ethics panel.

Evidently, the Washington Post somehow got a document from the committee - what Ethics Chair Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) labeled a "cyber hacking incident" - and was making calls to members listed on it.

Top Republican Rep. Jo Bonner (R-AL) indicated it was a "weekly report" summarizing possible ethics issues.

"We understand that the computer system of the committee is secure," Lofgren said on the floor.

What happened?  Well it turns out that some low level staffer somehow let a document out from the committee - and got fired for it - and that summary ended up in the hands of the Washington Post.

The Post reported in Friday's paper that it showed, "House ethics investigators have been scrutinizing the activities of more than 30 lawmakers and several aides in inquiries about issues including defense lobbying and corporate influence peddling."

Along with the probes listed earlier in this story, the Post said other lawmakers under scrutinty for links to defense contractors include Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA), Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-KS) and Rep. C.W. "Bill" Young (R-FL).

Those five, along with Rep. Murtha and Rep. Visclosky are centered on the now-defunct PMA lobbying group, which made campaign contributions to members, who then helped to steer budget earmarks to the lobbying firm.

You can see the Post story on this at

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