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House Ethics panel hires outside counsel

July 20, 2011 at 3:52 PM
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WASHINGTON, July 20 (UPI) -- The U.S. House Ethics Committee voted unanimously Wednesday to hire independent counsel to investigate itself in the Rep. Maxine Waters case.

Prominent Washington attorney Billy Martin will "review, advise and assist" the committee in investigating issues regarding the Democratic congresswoman from California, Chairwoman Jo Bonner, R-Ala., and ranking member Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Calif., said in a statement posted on the committee's Web site.

"The committee's decision reflects the high priority of this unique matter and the need to resolve it with the utmost care, diligence and integrity," Bonner and Sanchez said. "The committee is firmly and unanimously resolved to protect both the rights of Representative Waters and all respondents, as well as the responsibilities of the Committee on Ethics to the House community at large.

"Serious allegations have been made about the committee's own conduct in this matter by Representative Waters and others. The committee has not taken these allegations lightly."

Martin, now with the Washington law firm Dorsey & Whitney, is a former federal prosecutor who also has defended high-profile clients such as NFL quarterback Michael Vick, NBA stars Allen Iverson and Jayson Williams, former U.S. Sen. Larry Craig, Monica Lewinsky's mother, Chandra Levy's parents and former Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell.

Waters, who faces three ethics counts lodged by the committee, has accused it of violating her constitutional rights in its investigation of her finances. She has demanded the panel dismiss its case against her and has threatened to go to the House floor with the matter.

Waters has been accused of improperly using her office to aid a minority-owned bank where her husband held more than $350,000 in stock.

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