In June, we offered the humble suggestion that it was time to move on from the stalled-out, screwed up Maxine Waters/OneUnited ethics investigation and to focus on more important matters, such as whether Miss El Paso's mug shot might force me to pursue a life of crime and whether the bellman at the Barton Creek resort was shining me on when he told me I was booked into the same villa where Jennifer Lopez recently stayed (and tried to "prove" it to me by pointing to the alleged imprint of her butt on the sofa). Well, I'm happy to say that the House Ethics Committee decided to kick the can down the road by doing what all good people do when called upon to make a tough decision: they hired a lawyer. The House ethics committee is poised to pay a half-million dollars by year's end to resolve the mess that remains of its three-year probe of Rep. Maxine Waters. An outside counsel and private law firm will sort out how to handle the most substantive case on the committee's plate this session, as the panel tackles more modest matters. Waters, a powerful California Democrat, and a former senior staffer on the committee have separately questioned the integrity of the panel's investigation. […] The new outside review of the Waters case is already underway and being led by respected defense lawyer Billy Martin. It aims to determine whether the committee so tainted the investigation that it must drop the charges. If Martin finds the case can proceed, and the ethics committee agrees, he and associates at his firm of Dorsey & Whitney would lead the revived probe. Please note that the Billy Martin conducting this investigation is no relation to former Yankee manager Billy Martin, who could not lead such an investigation because he has not been inhaling oxygen or exhaling carbon dioxide since 1989. I just wanted to clear up any potential confusion. According to supporters of Ms. Waters, however, it might be better for her if the late, great Billy had been the man selected to do the job. Craig Holman, of the liberal-leaning Public Citizen, said the committee members are "essentially admitting they cannot handle or perform their job." Holman said both Waters and her accusers might face a harder look. "Knowing Billy Martin and his superb ability to do his job, I suspect Maxine Waters is going to come under much closer scrutiny," Holman said. "This could be a double-edged sword for Maxine Waters." I doubt Maxine is losing any sleep over Mr. Martin's investigation. After all, even if he finds that the process hasn't been so soiled that the investigation should be dismissed, the House Ethics Committee still has to proceed forward. They haven't been able to do that so far and there's no reason to suspect that Mr. Martin's scrutiny will prod them to overcome their bitter partisan gridlock. "If there's one thing to learn from all this it's that the ethics system is not functioning properly," said Ken Boehm of the conservative National Legal and Policy Center. That's an opinion that folks on which all sides of the political spectrum can agree.
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