Washington Report: Maxine in Troubled Waters

Washington Report: Maxine in Troubled Waters

An investigative subcommittee has found substantial reason to believe that Rep. Maxine Waters (D-California) violated House ethics rules. The Office of Congressional Ethics late Monday released its findings in report documenting the black lawmaker’s role in allegedly helping to secure $12 million in federal bailout funds for OneUnited Bank (No. 2 on the BE 100 Banks list with $549.6 million in assets), a company in which her husband owned stock. He had also served on the bank’s board of directors from 2004 to 2008.

Waters firmly denies any wrongdoing.

“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,” she said in a statement issued by her office. Waters in now the second powerful, black lawmaker facing an ethics trial before the midterm elections. Last week Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-New York) was charged with 13 counts of rule violations, including using federal resources to solicit donations for a center at City College of New York named in his honor.

According to the OCE report, Waters violated House rules on conflict of interest when she arranged for a meeting between the National Bankers Association and the Treasury Department in September 2008. Her husband, Sidney Williams, owned $100,000 to $250,000 of the bank’s stock at the time. The report also states that Waters recognized she “was in a predicament” because his of his involvement in the bank. In addition, the meeting, which appeared to focus on just one bank–OneUnited–was attended by two NBA officers, one of whom also held a high-level position at the bank. According the report, Robert Cooper, the bank’s vice president/senior counsel and at the time NBA chairman-elect, may have used the latter position “in a preferential position with the Treasury Department.” Neither he nor bank chairman Kevin Cohee, who also attended the meeting, have responded to multiple requests for interviews and OCE is recommending that they be subpoenaed.

An eight-member panel will “determine whether any counts in the statement of alleged violation have been proved by clear and convincing evidence,” the according to a statement issued by the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, and release its findings when Congress returns from summer recess in September.