WASHINGTON — Hardly any endeavor so unnerves members of Congress as policing each other’s conduct. Now, a temporary ethics panel that went in to rescue a troubled investigation of senior Representative Maxine Waters emerged with a warning Tuesday: avoid partisan infighting when investigating wrongdoing.
New rules, it said, are needed when potential conflicts of interest arise for lawmakers and their staffs. In fact, the House Ethics Committee is designed to encourage bipartisan cooperation — it has five members from each political party. But that system suffered a total breakdown in February, when political bickering caused all five Republicans and the ranking Democrat to step aside from the Waters case to avoid the public perception of a tainted investigation.
The new panel brought in to finish the Waters investigation issued a strong rebuke Tuesday, saying the ethics committee’s mission ‘‘calls upon members to step out of their partisan framework. . . .’’ It called for committee members to ‘‘constantly evaluate their actions . . . to ensure that they are living up to the highest standards of this committee.’’
The unusual statement comes after the group’s findings last week in the case of Waters, a Democrat of California and the second-ranking Democrat on the Financial Services Committee. Waters could head that panel if Democrats win back the House because the ranking member, Representative Barney Frank of Newton, is retiring.
Acting chairman Bob Goodlatte, Republican of Virginia, and the top acting Democrat, John Yarmuth of Kentucky, said in a statement that the panel concluded in a 10-to-0 vote that there was no ‘‘clear and convincing’’ evidence that Waters tried to steer federal bailout money to OneUnited, a Boston-based bank in which her husband is an investor.
The temporary panel also determined unanimously that while Waters undertook efforts to avoid a conflict of interest, her chief of staff and grandson, Mikael Moore, tried to assist the minority-owned bank despite his boss’s instruction not to do so because of her husband’s investment. - ASSOCIATED PRESS
Theo Epstein in a different political league
Four days after the Red Sox won the 2004 World Series, Theo Epstein, the club’s general manager at the time, used his newfound celebrity to campaign for the Democratic presidential nominee, John F. Kerry, in Manchester, N.H. Epstein was joined at the rally by two of his bosses, Sox owners John Henry and Tom Werner, who share his Democratic politics.
Eight years later, Epstein is in President Obama’s hometown, working as president of the Chicago Cubs.
Last week, Joe Ricketts, a part owner of the Cubs, launched a $10 million independent ad campaign backing Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. - CALLUM BORCHERS
Both want to be underdog in debates
It’s the debate before the debates: Who gets to play the role of underdog, President Obama or Republican challenger Mitt Romney?
Neither candidate wants to be labeled the favorite and, with a week to go before the first rhetorical rumble of the general election, each campaign is — in a dramatic departure from its usual negativity — praising the opposition.
“Mitt Romney had many, many debates, and he was very good in them,” Obama adviser David Axelrod told Reuters last week, referring to Romney’s 20 debates during the Republican primary. “By and large, when he needed to bring it, he did. He memorizes his set pieces, and he delivers them well.”
Another Obama adviser, Robert Gibbs, was more direct during an appearance on CNN Sunday. “Mitt Romney, I think, has an advantage,” Gibbs said.
Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, who has played Obama in Romney’s debate preparations, responded on Monday: “One thing that I think has been missing in some of the discussion I’ve heard is that Barack Obama is a very effective debater,” Portman told Politico. “He’s articulate; he’s smart. He did a great job in 2008 during that campaign as a debater.” - CALLUM BORCHERS
Cheap China labor had appeal, then
WASHINGTON — Less than two weeks before an investment firm controlled by Mitt Romney decided to buy a chunk of a China-based home appliance maker, the company put out a detailed document to investors promoting itself as a low-wage firm that would not be subject to taxes in the United States. It used “inexpensive labor,” Global-Tech Appliances wrote in a prospectus meant to attract investors on April 8, 1998. Its location in China meant “an overall effective tax rate that may be less than that of US corporations.”
The company also noted its working conditions: Peak production periods required six-day work weeks, and two 10-hour shifts per day in the case of the metal stamping department. The main manufacturing facility, in Dongguan, China, included 14 buildings that served as dormitories accommodating up to 3,700 workers. - MATT VISER