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House ethics panel brings in outside counsel for Waters case

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • House ethics committee has hired attorney Billy Martin to review its case
  • Waters accused of seeking federal aid for a bank her husband had financial interest in
  • Waters insists she has done nothing wrong, and says the panel has mishandled her case
  • Martin previously represented Monica Lewinsky and Michael Vick, among others

Washington (CNN) -- The House ethics committee announced Wednesday it has hired a prominent Washington attorney to review and help complete its investigation of Rep. Maxine Waters, D-California.

The panel -- comprised of an equal number of Democrats and Republicans -- voted unanimously to bring in Billy Martin, a partner in the firm of Dorsey & Whitney. Martin represented former White House intern Monica Lewinsky, NFL quarterback Michael Vick and the parents of murdered Washington intern Chandra Levy, among others.

Waters has been accused of seeking federal assistance in 2008 for OneUnited Bank, a minority-owned bank in which her husband held a financial interest. The bank ultimately received $12 million in bailout funds.

Waters, an 11-term Los Angeles congresswoman, has vehemently denied any wrongdoing. She has repeatedly demanded a conclusion to the committee's roughly two-year investigation.

Waters insists the panel -- officially known as the House Committee on Standards and Official Conduct -- has mishandled her case.

"Serious allegations have been made about the committee's own conduct in this matter," Reps. Jo Bonner, R-Alabama, and Linda Sanchez, D-California, said in a written statement.

"The committee has not taken these allegations lightly. ... The entire committee has therefore directed that a thorough review of all of these serious allegations will be the very first task of the outside counsel's engagement."

Bonner is the chairman of the committee; Sanchez is its top Democrat.

Waters responded to the development by releasing a statement arguing that the decision to hire Martin is a vindication of her position.

"Today's action is a recognition by the committee that its investigation of me was misguided, flawed and could go no further," Waters said. "Given what's already in the public domain, it's hard to imagine that a deeper review into the committee's conduct would do anything but reveal more troubling information.

"In the name of transparency, the counsel's findings should be made public," she argued.

In a speech on the House floor last December, Waters noted that two of the committee's attorneys leading the case against her had been accused of misconduct. She also railed against the secrecy surrounding the committee's proceedings.

CNN's Alan Silverleib and Deirdre Walsh contributed to this report.