Conflict of interests for ranking Democrat on House Ethics Committee

posted at 11:36 am on January 31, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

This flew under the radar on Friday with all of the attention focused on the crisis in Egypt, but it’s worth revisiting.  Linda Sanchez became the ranking Democrat on the House Ethics Committee after the departure of former chair Zoe Lofgren last week, and therefore helps control the actions of the evenly-split panel.  That creates a conflict of interest in the committee’s most high-profile case, that of Maxine Waters, whose legal counsel is related to Sanchez’ chief of staff — and who represented Sanchez and her sister in an earlier ethics probe:

Rep. Linda Sanchez has only been the top Democrat on the House Ethics Committee for three days, but there are already questions about whether Sanchez has a conflict of interest involving her chief of staff, a top ethics lawyer and the high-profile Maxine Waters ethics trial that looms before the committee.

Sanchez’s chief of staff is Adam Brand, son of top ethics lawyer – and former House general counsel – Stan Brand. The elder Brand is representing Waters (D-Calif.) in the ethics case pending before the Ethics Committee.

Stan Brand, who is widely respected among his fellow lawyers and the media who cover the cases, also represented Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.), Linda’s sister, in an ethics case involving both women. Linda Sanchez placed three staffers from her sister’s office on her payroll following an embezzlement scandal involving an aide to Loretta Sanchez in 2006. The Ethics Committee reviewed the matter but neither Sanchez was ever charged with any wrongdoing.

There are no House ethics rules barring Linda Sanchez from serving on the Ethics Committee because of her ties to Stan Brand or the fact that she was investigated by the secretive panel, but the overlapping interests with her sister, her top staffer and one of Washington’s most prominent ethics lawyer could certainly complicate things for her work on the Ethics Committee.

How much will it “complicate things” for Sanchez and the panel?  It depends on what expectations one has for the Ethics committee.  If one expects it to fulfill its mission of ensuring the highest ethical conduct of elected officials and punishing transgressors, then yes, having one’s counsel represent the accused would be as complicated as a trial judge hearing a case where his personal lawyer represents one of the principals.  If the expectation is that the Ethics committee exists to provide lip service to enforcement of the rules and take action only when public outrage makes it unavoidable, then a conflict of interest is mainly academic anyway.

Keep this in mind, though, when the new Ethics Committee starts to decide what to do with Maxine Waters.  If they let her off the hook without any hearing at all, the connection between Sanchez and Waters’ attorney should be recalled immediately.


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House Ethics = Oxymoron.

Joe Mama on January 31, 2011 at 11:41 AM

the connection between Sanchez and Waters’ attorney should be recalled immediately.

As, of course, should Sanchez and Waters, but state constitutions don’t allow that.

KingGold on January 31, 2011 at 11:41 AM

I have zero faith in the ethics committees, as far as I can tell they are just covering each others hindquarters. Both sides.

Cindy Munford on January 31, 2011 at 11:44 AM

The charade continues…

d1carter on January 31, 2011 at 11:46 AM

I have zero faith in the ethics committees, as far as I can tell they are just covering each others hindquarters. Both sides.

Cindy Munford on January 31, 2011 at 11:44 AM

I completely agree.

upinak on January 31, 2011 at 11:47 AM

Well, if I was a betting man, they let her off the hook without any hearings. I’m so shocked.

Hummer53 on January 31, 2011 at 11:48 AM

I wonder how often these people get let off when they could have been charged criminally?

Cindy Munford on January 31, 2011 at 11:49 AM

Democrats and ethics can best be described as a structural conflict of interest. Democrats take to ethics like cats take to water.

Wine_N_Dine on January 31, 2011 at 11:50 AM

At least Sanchez has experience with ethics probes. Let’s hear it for appointing “experienced” people to the Ethics Committee.

forest on January 31, 2011 at 11:54 AM

I wonder how often these people get let off when they could have been charged criminally?

Cindy Munford on January 31, 2011 at 11:49 AM

9 out of 10 times.

Heck we saw it first hand with whats his name and his booty of cash in a freezer during katrina.

upinak on January 31, 2011 at 11:55 AM

No ethics rules for the ethics committee. Uh huh. Seems like a whole lotta back scratchin’ goin’ on.

Kissmygrits on January 31, 2011 at 11:56 AM

upinak on January 31, 2011 at 11:55 AM

It truly hard to have any respect for anyone in D.C.

Cindy Munford on January 31, 2011 at 11:56 AM

Another day, another corrupt democrat. Ho-hum. It’ll be news when those folks aren’t fleecing the taxpayers to line their own pockets, lying about it in Congressional ethics hearings, and receiving a slap on the wrist from their equally corrupt democrat colleagues.

Rational Thought on January 31, 2011 at 11:57 AM

It truly hard to have any respect for anyone in D.C.

Cindy Munford on January 31, 2011 at 11:56 AM

Even the newbie’s that were voted in?

Cindy, at this moment in time I have little respect for any. West, I have respect for… be he is one of what 120 that were elected or re-elected?

They need to EARN it, which include the newbies in the Senate and Congress. And I have yet, to be impressed.

upinak on January 31, 2011 at 12:04 PM

Conflict of interests for ranking Democrat

Democrats merely have interests. They are immune to conflict of interests.

rukiddingme on January 31, 2011 at 12:06 PM

Ethics committee is basically a group of individuals to try to decide how to not prosecute each other.
How do they explain away wrong doings, while “exposing” the wrong.
Their investigations are designed to investigate ways of legally allowing the “doer” a way out.
The ones that are eventually held accountable, it is because the wrong was so egregious, that even the blind could see it.
I have no faith, absolutely no faith, in the effectiveness of the ethics committee. It is perhaps the most ineffectual committees on the hill.
This one committee, you can bet, is one of the reasons people have so little faith in our “leaders”.

right2bright on January 31, 2011 at 12:10 PM

HOUSE ETHICS = C.Y.A.

Ltlgeneral64 on January 31, 2011 at 12:13 PM

HOUSE ETHICS = C.Y.A.

Ltlgeneral64 on January 31, 2011 at 12:13 PM

That’s what they should call themselves…

right2bright on January 31, 2011 at 12:17 PM

Now I get it. So this is the meaning of word, UTOPIA?

nimrod on January 31, 2011 at 12:22 PM

Cindy Munford on January 31, 2011 at 11:56 AM

They don’t respect you, so it’s hard to expect you to respect them.

withmanitisimpossible on January 31, 2011 at 12:30 PM

upinak on January 31, 2011 at 12:04 PM

I have to give the new folks a chance but Washington is not good for people.

Cindy Munford on January 31, 2011 at 12:36 PM

Why are you using a picture of Eddie Murphy on the front page?

mrt721 on January 31, 2011 at 12:37 PM

I don’t know why they bother, there don’t seem to be any real consequences for ethics violations anymore. What’s the most that will happen to her?

scalleywag on January 31, 2011 at 12:46 PM

I remember someone saying something about “draining the swamp”…..did that ever happen???? /

search4truth on January 31, 2011 at 12:46 PM

If they let her off the hook without any hearing at all, the connection between Sanchez and Waters’ attorney should be recalled immediately.

with this crew, they WILL let her off the hook and will be mum on this little conflict

sweepin’ it under the rug

cmsinaz on January 31, 2011 at 1:01 PM

I have zero faith in the ethics committees, as far as I can tell they are just covering each others hindquarters. Both sides.

Cindy Munford on January 31, 2011 at 11:44 AM

Yep, it’s like expecting a football team to call penalties on themselves.

slickwillie2001 on January 31, 2011 at 1:26 PM

Mr. Fox, Meet Henhouse.

TimBuk3 on January 31, 2011 at 1:32 PM

It depends on what expectations one has for the Ethics committee.

I expect them to cover Water’s ass.

GarandFan on January 31, 2011 at 3:32 PM

One must have ethics before they can be in conflict…

Big John on January 31, 2011 at 4:37 PM

I have zero faith in the ethics committees, as far as I can tell they are just covering each others hindquarters. Both sides.

Cindy Munford on January 31, 2011 at 11:44 AM

I completely agree, too.

If ethics was on the radar, Linda Sanchez would NOT be in Congress. Nor would Waters, for that matter.

Lourdes on January 31, 2011 at 6:51 PM