Rep. Waters Defends|Herself on Ethics Charges

     WASHINGTON (CN) – Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., denied allegations that she violated House ethics rules in a press conference Friday, saying she “won’t go behind closed doors” to reach a settlement.

     “I have not violated any House rules,” Waters told reporters at the Capitol. “I won’t cut a deal.”
     Waters is under fire for allegedly failing to cut off her office’s role in securing federal bailout money for a bank in which her husband owned stock.
     On Monday, the House ethics committee formally accused Waters of three violations: failing to reflect credibility on the House, using her political position to benefit financially, and dispensing favors that could influence how she performed her official duties.
     Waters said the committee’s report detailing the accusations was inaccurate.
     “No benefit. No improper action. No failure to disclose. No one influenced. No case,” she said.
     The allegations against Waters stem from a September 2008 meeting she arranged between Treasury officials and representatives from the National Bankers Association, a trade association for minority-owned banks. Several of the NBA representatives who attended the meeting were also executives of OneUnited, the Massachusetts bank in which Waters’ husband owned stock and was a former board member.
     The officially stated purpose of the meeting was to address the concern of NBA members that the government’s seizure of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would hurt minority banks’ interests in the mortgage firms.
     But the ethics committee claimed that OneUnited’s executives used the meeting to request federal assistance to make up for $50 million in losses due to the devaluation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac stock.
     Waters insisted that the meeting was about providing access to the Treasury for minority-owned banks, and that the NBA representatives were voicing the concerns of all NBA members.
     She said that a few weeks after the meeting, when she found out that OneUnited was seeking federal bailout funds, she turned the issue over to Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., chair of the House Financial Services Committee.
     The ethics committee said Waters may have backed out of the issue, but her chief of staff and grandson Mikael Moore did not.
     Moore continued pushing for legislation that would allow the Treasury to direct bailout funds to OneUnited, the investigatory subcommittee said.
     Moore, who appeared at the meeting Friday, said he advocated for TARP funds on behalf of a broad group of minority-preferred institutions, pointing to a series of emails that mentioned the NBA, but not OneUnited.
     Waters and Moore said there was no evidence that Waters or her office influenced the Treasury’s decision to award federal bailout funds to OneUnited.
     “If you would like to accuse me, what did I do?” Waters said. “If you would like to accuse my chief of staff, what did he do?”
     Waters will face a public House trial before an adjudicatory subcommittee, which has not yet been scheduled.
     She said it was “unacceptable” that the trial might not be held until after November elections.
     She criticized the ethics committee process, specifically a rule that allows the committee to release investigative findings at any point after an investigation has gone on for a year.
     She said she was bringing her case to trial as a way to shed light on the “inner workings” of the committee.
     During a question-and-answer period, a reporter asked Waters if her husband still owned shares in OneUnited.
     “Yes, he does,” she said. “Nobody wants to buy them,” she added with a smile.

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