We have received your letter dated June 7, 2012, related to the Committee on Ethics' (Committee) letter of June 6, 2012 regarding the Matter of Representative Maxine Waters. We appreciate this opportunity to respond to your concerns.
To begin, we remind you that all current members of the Committee and staff who were involved in the investigation of Representative Waters' conduct in the last Congress have recused themselves from any further consideration of this matter. In their place a new Committee, still evenly bipaliisan, with no prior connection to this matter, has addressed Representative Waters' arguments and concerns, and has done so with unprecedented thoroughness. In fact, six of the ten Members of this Committee were appointed solely for this case, and do not constitute the Ethics Committee for any other purpose.
Fmihermore, we believe that our letter of June 6 addresses all the factual concerns you raise in a far more thorough malmer than your letter seems to take into account. While you are not correct that "Committee staff generally did engage in the leaking of confidential information, and ex parte communications," we have objectively dealt with and acknowledged all the areas of concern you raise, and even assumed facts to the benefit of Representative Waters' arguments.
We carefully considered and explained the proper analysis of such conduct, in the context of principles of constitutional law applicable to this Committee's proceedings. For example, the Committee acknowledged that a former member of the staff made inappropriate remarks related to race. We do not minimize such conduct. However, as a matter of fact and constitutional principle, the Committee's outside counsel, Mr. Martin, concluded, and the Committee
unanimously found, that the conduct in question did not affect the investigation, or impact the decision-making process in this case. The Committee has now announced its unanimous findings and conclusions, which were entirely consistent, in all ways, with Mr. Martin's advice and recommendations.
It is also simply incorrect to assume that Mr. Maliin "issued" a "report" in this matter. He did not. While his tremendous experience and reputation in the community assure the House and public that the Committee is receiving independent advice, Mr. Martin was retained to advise and assist the Committee, as staff to the Committee. In that role, Mr. Martin provided
confidential and thorough advice to the Committee, just as congressional staff advise Members and House committees on a daily basis, so that the Members and committees may make their own informed findings and conclusions.
In addition, Mr. Martin's engagement was not limited to a single task. Rather, Mr. Martin was engaged to advise and assist the Committee in all phases of the investigation of allegations of misconduct against Representative Waters. The first phase of his assignment was an unprecedented, thorough, and fair review of the due process complaints of the Respondent in the matter. However, that was only the first phase. Therefore Mr. Martin's role has not yet concluded and the Committee has not considered any reports in the matter for which he is
engaged. Indeed, Mr. Martin and the Committee are trying to provide as prompt a resolution to the entire matter as possible.
By Committee rule, Committee proceedings are confidential. This includes the work of all staff-including outside counsel-in providing advice to the Committee. The confidentiality rules are crucial to the Committee's work and protect all Members and staff of the House of Representatives during ongoing investigations, as well as the integrity of the investigation itself.
If the ongoing work of the Committee's professional staff, including outside counsel, were made public prior to completion, it would defeat the purpose of having a nonpartisan, confidential process - keeping matters of House discipline free from political or outside influence.
Instead, when public matters before the Committee conclude, the Committee often releases a carefully detailed final report, with supporting evidence, for the scrutiny of the House community and the public at large. If the Committee does so in this matter, it will be at the conclusion of the matter. However, the Committee has considered the Respondent's concerns and arguments in this matter, and has issued its judgment on those questions. This phase is
therefore complete. There is no justification for releasing the confidential details of staff advice to the Committee at this time.
Accordingly, we respectfully decline to provide the internal advice and memoranda of staff in this, or any, open and ongoing matter.
Michael K. Simpson
Donna F. Edwards
Steve C. LaTourette
Pedro R. Pierluisi
Shelley Moore Capito
John P. Sarbanes