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May 5, 2015

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election 2012:

House ethics panel let Waters off the hook; what does that mean for Berkley?

Nevada Congresswoman Shelley Berkley speaks during the National Clean Energy Summit 5.0 at the Bellagio Tuesday, August 7, 2012.

Nevada Congresswoman Shelley Berkley speaks during the National Clean Energy Summit 5.0 at the Bellagio Tuesday, August 7, 2012.

The House Committee on Ethics decided last month to absolve of any wrongdoing a Democratic congresswoman under investigation for allegedly using her official position to promote her husband’s financial interests.

No, it wasn’t Nevada Rep. Shelley Berkley. But the committee’s decision in Rep. Maxine Waters’ case could set a precedent for the Berkley case.

“If I were Shelley Berkley’s lawyer, I’d be relying on the fact that they didn’t find a conflict in the Waters case,” said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a nonpartisan government watchdog organization in D.C. “I think it will have an effect on the Berkley case.”

But there are also enough differences that some ethics watchdogs think the Waters decision may only further complicate matters for Berkley.

“The precedent it set is toward enforcing the stringency of those rules. They made that very clear,” said Craig Holman, lobbyist with Public Citizen, another ethics watchdog group in Washington, D.C.

Waters had been accused of using her position and influence as a senior member of the House Financial Services Committee to make sure OneUnited, a bank in which her husband had a significant financial stake, had a seat at the table in a special meeting she arranged between Treasury officials and minority-owned banks in 2008.

But ethics committee investigators found that Waters had distanced herself from the matter as soon as she became aware of the potential ethical conflict, and encouraged her chief of staff Mikael Moore — who is also her grandson — to do the same. He didn’t, and was censured by the ethics committee even as they found Waters free of wrongdoing.

“That very clearly sets a precedent, for any case in which they find that a lawmaker or staffer pursued official actions that benefitted an immediate family member,” Holman said. “The finding for Shelley Berkley will be based on whether she knowingly pursued a benefit for her personal family ... they are very likely to find that is a violation of the conflict of interest code.”

Berkley’s campaign denies that the congresswoman did anything to inspire the attention, much less the potential censure, of the ethics committee. At question is her conduct urging fellow lawmakers to support maintaining Medicare reimbursement rates for kidney care and urging administration officials not to shutter Las Vegas’ sole kidney transplant facility at University Medical Center, despite the fact that her husband is a kidney doctor with a minority stake in the firm that holds that UMC contract.

The committee formally announced the launch of its Berkley investigation in July. But when it comes to wrapping that up, Waters may set yet another precedent — on timing.

It took the ethics committee three years to resolve the Waters case, which got mired in various procedural bumbles, including leaks and partisan standoffs between committee members along the way. They’ve had Berkley’s case now for a scant three months. Perhaps more important, there’s only another three months left before the House committee loses jurisdiction over Berkley, who is running for Senate. Whether she wins or loses that race against Dean Heller, she will no longer be in the House.

“The House ethics committee literally fell apart with the Maxine Waters case, with illegal leaks and partisan squabbling ... so I would expect them to start acting in a somewhat more professional manner at this point,” Holman said. “I can see the goal of the ethics committee being the end of the year.”

No matter what precedent the Waters case may set, there’s little chance Berkley will see a resolution of her own case before the election, as ethics committee members aren’t even scheduled to come back to Washington until mid-November.

“I don’t think they’re ever going to clear up Berkley for us,” Sloan said. “If Berkley loses the Senate race then I guess they have the rest of November and December, but I just don’t know why they would feel the need to do anything. And if she wins, I still suppose it’s possible — but again, why would they feel the need?

“If they don’t do it before the end of the year, it’s over,” Sloan concluded.

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  1. Being that it's the only kidney transplant facility in the state of Nevada,she should be commended for fighting for it..

  2. Maxine Waters had a fall-guy. Shelley Berkley does not have a fall-guy.

  3. To keep that kidney facility open and available has positively affected the lives of many many people in Nevada. I personally know of folks who would no longer be here living in this world except for the great risk Berkley took in trying to keep it here for those in need, and especially lacked resources.

    It is understandable to urge as many influencial people as possible to garner support of keeping it HERE and OPEN. Shame on the merciless and hateful people who would deny quality kidney healthcare to the many needing it, some lacking resources to drive and stay at a facility out of state. Berkley is only guilty of caring about citizens.

    Blessings and Peace,

  4. This is a case where a literal interpretation of corruption actually is eclipsed by the reality of the situation. The only ones I see pushing and using this issue are the Tea/Republicans.

    Because Heller can't run on anything.

    First of all, he's appointed to this Senate Seat. He replaced a guy who quit in disgrace (Ensign). He didn't campaign. He didn't get out there, pound the pavement and stump for the vote. He wasn't elected. He wasn't even popularly elected. APPOINTED. By another Tea/Republican (Governor Sandoval).

    Second, Heller's voting record, while both in the House and the Senate, is absolutely horrible. He voted for the first predatory Ryan Budget that would have ended Medicare as we know it, replacing it with a totally inferior and inadequate voucher system; thereby allowing the savings to be planned for in that budget to be given as tax subsidies/breaks for the rich. Not only did Heller vote once for this, but TWICE. There are a whole host of other things he voted for, not because they helped Nevada, but because they helped the stupid Tea/Republican cause of doing anything and everything to get into power...nothing else mattered.

    Third, Heller blocked an emergency Federal judge appointment here in Nevada. Not for any good cause at all. Only for political purposes. The entire Tea/Republican has blocked all President Obama appointments. Why? Because they hate him. And they want him to fail. Even if they have to cause suffering and pain to the entirety of America, that's what they have done. Heller followed right along with this stupid tactic of acting like a spoilt rotten child who can't get what he wants.

    Heller is a willing contributor to the incompetency of the 112th Congress. Possibly the worst Congress in hundreds of years. And it is the sole fault of the Tea/Republican habit of blocking, obstructing and voting no on virtually EVERYTHING.

    So, ask yourself this: We have already been to Hell...why go Heller?

    He doesn't deserve to be sitting in the Senate. Time for a change. The Tea/Republicans blew it with Ensign. Time for a change. We want to go forward. Not backwards.

    So, I don't care if these allegations against Berkley are true or not. Don't matter. Her voting record leaves Heller's in the dust. She cares for Nevada.

    Berkley 2012!