*Politico is reporting that the House Ethics Committee has voted not charge Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters with any violations following a lengthy, contentious probe into whether she improperly aided a minority-owned bank in which her husband owned stock during the 2008 U.S. financial crisis.

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The decision clears the way for Waters to seek the top Democratic spot on the House Financial Services Committee in the next Congress, taking over for the retiring Democrat Barney Frank.”

Waters is alleged to have improperly intervened on behalf of minority bank OneUnited, where her husband held more than $350,000 in stock in 2008. Waters has denied any wrongdoing. Mikael Moore, her chief of staff and grandson, was also implicated in the case.

Moore was issued a “letter of reproval” today for three ethics violations. (A “letter of reproval” is the lightest punishment the Ethics Committee has available to it.)

The Waters case has been marked by an unprecedented series of missteps, leaks and partisan infighting, notes Politico.

The Ethics Committee initially voted to charge her and Moore with three violations in summer 2010. Waters then asked for an ethics “trial” before the committee.

But the Ethics Committee, then chaired by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), canceled this “trial” for Waters in Nov. 2010. In Dec. 2010, Politico reported that two top aides on the panel running the Waters’ probe were suspended in a bitter dispute between Lofgren and Rep. Jo Bonner (R-Ala.), who is now chairman. When Republicans moved to allow the two ex-staffers — Morgan Kim and Stacy Sovereign – to return to the panel, Lofgren refused to allow it.

In February, all five Republicans on the Ethics Committee took the exceptional step of recusing themselves from the case, which has never happened in the panel’s 45-year history. California Rep. Linda Sanchez (Calif.), ranking Democrat on the committee, also recused herself from the matter. Reps. Bob Goodlatte (R-Mich.) and John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) took over as acting chairman and ranking member for the Waters case alone. The two lawmakers chaired Friday’s hearing, according to a statement released by the Ethics Committee today.