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House Ethics Details Charges Against Rep. Waters

Barney Frank, Maxine Waters

House Financial Services Committee Chairman Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass. talks to committee member and fellow Democrat Rep. Maxine Waters of California in October 2009. Harry Hamburg/FR170004 AP hide caption

itoggle caption Harry Hamburg/FR170004 AP

The House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct made public Monday details of what it alleges were Rep. Maxine Waters' violations of the chamber's ethics rules as it released the formal charges against her.

The charges confirm what the California Democrat said about her 2008 request for a meeting between Treasury officials and officers of a financial-industry trade group to discuss the effect regulatory actions were having on minority banks.

But the charges also raise inescapable suspicions because the only officials from the National Bankers Association or NBA, a group that represents minority-owned banks, at the meeting were both from OneUnited Bank, an institution on whose board Waters' husband sat on and owned shares of.

According to the meeting, the CEO and senior counsel of OneUnited asked Treasury officials at the meeting for $50 million to make up for a loss they said the bank sustained when federal regulators placed it under conservatorship.

Waters' husband, Sidney Williams, had 3,500 shares in OneUnited which fell to almost half of their prior value after conservatorship, going from more than $350,000 in value in 2007 to $175,000 in Sept. 2008.

The document of charges says that in September 2008, Waters even talked with Rep. Barney Frank, chair of the House Financial Services Committee about her husband having been on OneUnited's board. Waters is a member of Frank's committee.

The document says:

Representative Frank told Respondent not to get involved and that he would handle the issues related to OneUnited.

Respondent did not instruct her chief of staff, Mikael Moore, to refrain from assisting OneUnited.

Her chief of staff, who also happened to be her grandson, indeed, continued to advocate on OneUnited's behalf, according to the document.

His work included helping to draft legislation to let Treasury buy mortgage assets from banks, including OneUnited.

Eventually, OneUnited received an investment of private money which led to an infusion of funds from Treasury's Troubled Asset Relief Fund or TARP.

All of this kept the shares in OneUnited held by her husband from becoming worthless.

The statement of allegations goes on to say:

Respondent's failure to instruct her "Chief of Staff" to refrain from assisting OneUnited after Respondent realized that she "should not be involved" violated the House rule applicable to behaving at all times in a manner that shall reflect creditably on the House...

Waters has said she did nothing wrong and seeks a public hearing to clear her name.

It's a hearing Democrats aren't exactly looking forward to since it combines with a likely hearing for Rep. Charles Rangel, a New York Democrat.

Rangel, former House Ways and Means chairman, has been charged with misusing his office and failing to make proper financial disclosures, report certain income and pay the necessary taxes when they were initially due.

And all of this comes against the backdrop of mid-term elections in which even the most optimistic Democrats expect to lose a significant number of House seats. There's even some thought that the Republicans could recapture the House majority.

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