Skip to comments.Ethics details charges against Maxine Waters (OCE)
Posted on 08/02/2010 12:25:23 PM PDT by jazusamo
An independent ethics office accused Rep. Maxine Waters of violating House conflict-of-interest rules by intervening on behalf of a minority-owned bank in which her husband held $250,000 worth of stock, according to a report released Monday by the House ethics committee as part of its preparation for a "trial" of the California Democrat.
The report, written in August 2009 by the Office of Congressional Ethics, became the basis of a full-scale investigation of Waters by the ethics committee. A special bipartisan investigative panel of the committee has found "substantial reason to believe" that Waters violated House rules.
Waters, the number three Democrat on the Financial Services Committee, has vehemently denied any wrongdoing. She is choosing to go to trial rather than admit violating ethics rules through a plea.
Waters countered the OCE report and the ethics committee's as-yet-unreleased-findings with a scathing criticism of the probe into her dealings with OneUnited Bank.
"I have not violated any House rules. Therefore, I simply will not be forced to admit to something I did not do and instead have chosen to respond to charges made by the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct in a public hearing," Waters said in a lengthy written rebuttal to the OCE document. "Starting with the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) report released today, the record will clearly show that in advocating on behalf of minority banks neither my office nor I benefited in any way, engaged in improper action or influenced anyone. ... In sum, the case against me has no merit."
Waters' response suggests she'll go into her trial with guns blazing.
She will be judged by a panel that includes ethics Chairwoman Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and Rep. Jo Bonner of Alabama, the panels top Republican. The other Democrats on the adjudicatory subcommittee will be Democrats G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina, Ben Chandler of Kentucky and Peter Welch of Vermont, and the other Republicans are Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, Gregg Harper of Mississippi and Michael McCaul of Texas.
The twin ethics trials of Waters and Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), who was hit with a 13-count allegation of wrongdoing last Thursday by the ethics committee, raise the specter of two senior Democrats, both of whom are African-American, battling it out with their colleagues over ethics charges in the final months before November's midterm election.
The case against Waters centers around a meeting she helped arrange between senior Treasury officials and representatives of OneUnited Bank, one of whom was the incoming chairman of the National Bankers Association, in early September 2008.
At the time, during the height of the financial crisis, OneUnited and similar minority-owned banks were seeking federal assistance to stay afloat just like their bigger counterparts on Wall Street. Waters' husband, Sidney Williams, owned roughly $250,000 worth of stock in the bank, which has a presence in Waters's home city of Los Angeles. Williams was also a former member of the OneUnited board of directors.
Like some other minority banks, OneUnited had invested heavily in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac stock as the housing market soared, believing the investment in the two "government-sponsored entities" was a safe one.
But as the housing bubble collapsed in late 2008, so did Fannie and Freddie's stock price, threatening OneUnited's solvency. Bank officials turned to Waters for help, and she contacted then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson on their behalf to set up a meeting with department officials for the following day.
In addition to Treasury and OneUnited officials, representatives of Sen. John Kerry and Rep. Barney Frank, both Massachusetts Democrats, attended the Sept. 9, 2008, meeting at the Treasury Department, as did the counsel for the National Bankers Association. Waters and Paulson were not present.
Months later, OneUnited received $12 million in funds from Treasury's TARP program, which did not exist at the time of the meeting.
The OCE board, after its own investigation into the actions of Waters and her top aide in the weeks after the Sept. 9 meeting, found it likely that she violated House rules.
"There is substantial reason to believe that Rep. Waters may have violated House Rule 23, Clause 3 and House precedent regarding conflict of interest," the OCE board wrote in a report adopted in July 2009. It prohibits lawmakers from receiving compensation by improperly exerting influence as members of Congress.
Five members of the OCE board voted to send the report to the House ethics committee known officially as the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct with a recommendation for a full-scale investigation into the California Democrat. One OCE board member abstained.
OCE can only make recommendations to the ethics committee for further action; the ethics committee must then decide whether to go ahead with a probe and sanction a lawmaker if violations are found.
Since the OCE report was transmitted a year ago, the ethics committee has conducted its own investigation into the matter and drafted a still secret "Statement of Alleged Violation" against Waters. Though the contents of that report may not be known for days or even weeks, the OCE's initial report offers insight into the case the ethics committee will make as it seeks to punish Waters.
Waters and her top aide, Mikael Moore, cooperated with the OCE investigators, voluntarily turning over internal e-mails and agreeing to personal interviews, according to the OCE report.
In her Monday statement, Waters, first elected to the House in 1990, slammed the ethics committee and the OCE for their conduct during the investigation. "Although I am not convinced that the process for investigating and examining House ethics cases is fair," she said, "I welcome the opportunity to show my constituents and the American public that the accusations against me are frivolous and unfounded."
The OCE report attempts to portray a congresswoman who used her office to help salvage a sinking bank in which her husband owned significant stock in order to prevent personal financial loss.
But Waters, the senior-most African American on the Financial Services Committee, counters that she simply helped an association of minority-owned banks get a meeting with the Treasury secretary, a move consistent with a decades-long track record of helping build and maintain black-owned businesses. Her husband's stock holdings in the bank represent less than 10 percent of their personal assets and possibly much less according to financial disclosure forms that require lawmakers to list ranges of assets rather than specific dollar amounts.
Now the matter will be decided by a bipartisan adjudicatory subcommittee. If Waters is found to have violated House rules, the full ethics committee will recommend a punishment to the House.
But first, the lawmakers who investigated the case based on OCE's recommendation will have to prove their case.
"[T]he suggestion that I could gain personally from one phone call made to assist the National Bankers Association in getting a meeting with the Treasury Department is not credible," Waters said. "Even the OCE acknowledges that the meeting resulted in no action. Although it leveled the accusation, the OCE also failed to show that I received any benefit or engaged in any 'improper exercise of official influence.'"
Hers would be the first ethics trial generated by an OCE finding. The OCE may initiate investigations based on news reports or complaints made by outside groups and forward its findings to the ethics committee. However, it does not have the authority to punish a member.
It's not yet clear whether her case will move alongside that of Rangel, who is also fighting the findings of an ethics investigation, or come afterward.
The Statement of Alleged Violation the actual charging document from the ethics panel's investigative subcommittee could be released when the House returns from its summer recess in mid-September, or perhaps sooner.
That could be a point of contention between the committee and Waters. With Rangel's case commanding headlines and demanding resources, the committee may not be equipped to handle her case at the same time or immediately following his trial. But she would no doubt prefer to have a resolution before she's on the ballot in November.
The government should take all she owns and redistribute it. No sarcasm intended.
It is racist to investigate a criminal.
They're just doing this to you because you're black. You and Charlie Rangle! What you should do is point out a lot of shady dealings other D's have committed and THEY'RE not being singled out!
Maxine Waters: FUBU
Dont be fooled.
This is all to show that the Democrats are being transparent.
They have no intention of prosecuting.
I second that, Maxine!
“The government should take all she owns and redistribute it.”
Good now I can go home and sit on the couch and watch Jerry Springer while the gubment pays my rent.
REV says the house is picking on blacks...Next Jesse Jackson JR???
REV says the house is picking on blacks...Next Jesse Jackson JR???
There are NO black members of the Ethica committee..how long before the CBC starts complaining about that? Seriously, does her problem make it HARDER for Rangel not to resign....to get one out of the way and off the headlines, so to speak..
The Grifter Rev. Al is called on to comment on ethics, what a joke.
Don’t have the slightest idea on the difficulties for either but the Dems are not happy to see this coming down before the election.
The CBC has already cried on Pelosi’s shoulder about the OCE and wants her to get another bill passed to gut them, last I heard she was agreeing with them.
A black getting elected to a political position is just
another way of hitting the lotto in da hood!
If Rangel wasn’t black, and had the CBC supporting him..he’d have been thrown under the bus last year..Obama , IMHO, pretty much greased the skids with his comments yesterday..
Proceedings slated for House members Maxine Waters and Charles Rangel could create a rift between the Congressional Black Caucus and other Democratic leaders."
So true...I think it hilarious the Dems and pundits coming out and saying what Obama “really” meant when he said that. :)
I sure hope so. :)
Racism!!! I tell you we should be groveling at these peoples feet, just look at the contributions they have given our society.\s
“I sure hope so. :)”