Rep. Maxine Waters Defends Against Ethics Charges

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On August 13, 2010 Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) read a statement and answered questions on ethics charges brought against her by the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE). The OCE alleges that she inappropriately used her office to secure a meeting regarding what would later become TARP funding for OneUnited -- a bank her husband was a board member of from 2004 to 2008 and was a stock holder in at the time of the meeting.

See this video for a summary of Rep. Waters' remarks.

Rep. Waters put the controversy in context of the work her office has always done to ensure equal access to government. She compared how large financial institutions like Citibank or Goldman Sachs can get on the phone and receive billions upon billions from government but smaller minority owned banks can't even get their phone calls returned.

She went on to deny that her advocacy for minority owned banks stepped over the line. She asserted that she merely called the Secretary of Treasury at the time, Hank Paulson, to urge him to meet with the National Association of Bankers an organization representing 100 minority owned banks. Waters did not attend the meeting which ended up only having a single bank represented directly: OneUnited.

Waters reported that the majority of the meeting on September 9th, 2008 was on the general crisis facing minority owned banks that had invested in the failing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac government sponsored mortgage corporations. She strongly emphasized that only the final portion of the meeting concerned OneUnited. OneUnited asked the Treasury for assistance in offsetting their losses in Fannie and Freddie. Since TARP did not exist at this point, their request was denied by the Treasury. After the bill authorizing TARP had passed Congress, OneUnited received $12.1 million from TARP.

Through additional documentation located below, the OCE posits that "Mr. Cooper [OneUnited's Senior Counsel] may have used his position as the Chairman-elect of the [National Bankers Association] to place OneUnited in a preferential position with the Treasury Department following the creation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s conservatorship."

WASHINGTON - AUGUST 13: Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) holds a news conference to challenge the charges made against her by the House of Representatives ethics committee at the U.S. Capitol August 13, 2010 in Washington, DC. The House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct said it found sufficient evidence that Waters' chief of staff, her grandson Mikael Moore, granted 'special favors' to a struggling Massachusetts-based bank in which her husband owned stock. Waters has requested that a public trial by an ethics committee panel take place before the November election. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

In addition, they note that several other banks headquartered in the Washington, DC area belonging to the National Bankers Association did not attend the meeting despite Secretary's Paulson contention that he wanted the meeting to be "available to everyone and [had] expected a larger turnout." Later, Treasury officials claimed no knowledge of the September 9th meeting when they made the TARP disbursement to OneUnited.

Review the primary documents and videos and let us know what you think: did Rep. Waters act inappropriately? Leave a comment below or reply to @sunlightnetwork on Twitter.

Primary sources:

Office of Congressional Ethics Report on Rep. Maxine Waters

PowerPoint Presentation of Rep. Maxine Waters' Defense on Ethics Charges

This article was originally written by Noah Kunin, Multimedia Producer - Sunlight Foundation.


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