Politics

Maxine Waters as Banking Chief? Three Reasons for Concern

California Democrat is in line for an important House position, even with these problems in her past

Barring something totally unexpected, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) is set to become chairman of the powerful Financial Services Committee in January 2019 when Democrats take control of the House of Representatives.

“Waters is no friend to the nation’s biggest banks and Wall Street, and has been a vocal critic of President Donald Trump and his administration,” the Associated Press reported the day after the 2018 midterm elections.

“The congresswoman from California has called for more regulation of banks, and has opposed Trump’s political appointees moving to roll back regulations on banks and other financial services companies,” AP also said in a favorable profile of her.

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While some folks may be happy about Waters’ ascension, here are three reasons — based on the lawmaker’s own past conduct in Congress — that make it clear her taking over that committee would be worrisome news for just about everybody with a bank account.

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1.) Waters, who is 80, has used her official position in Congress in some eyebrow-raising ways in the past. The California congresswoman in 2008, as a member of the House committee, arranged a meeting with then-Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulsen for executives from OneUnited, a troubled bank in which her husband, Sidney Williams, was a major shareholder.

The bank was at risk of failing in the recession, which would have cost Waters’ husband an estimated $350,000, according to The New York Times.

Following the meeting with Paulsen, OneUnited received $12 million in federal bailout funds.

Williams is a former NFL player. Following his professional football tenure, he worked for a Los Angeles city councilman, then was appointed by former President Bill Clinton as U.S. Ambassador to the Bahamas. The couple married in 1977.

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2.) Waters has used her official position in Congress to benefit family members. After arranging the Paulsen meeting, Waters was advised by House ethics officials not to attend it or to otherwise participate in the lobbying for the bailout funds.

That was not a problem, since her chief of staff, Mikael Moore, also happened to be her grandson.

Moore attended the Paulsen meeting, along with OneUnited representatives, according to Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a liberal nonprofit that litigates for transparency in government.

Treasury officials thought the meeting sought by Waters was to discuss the recession’s impact on minority-owned banks in general. They were surprised to receive OneUnited’s request for $40 million in bailout funds under the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).

But then Barack Obama was elected president in November 2008 — and the following month, Treasury officials approved the $12 million in TARP funds for OneUnited.

Complaints were filed against Waters with the House Ethics Committee, but after three years of tumultuous investigation, an outside counsel concluded Waters had not violated the rules.

That conclusion remains disputed by critics; and it did not dissuade CREW from naming her among the most corrupt members of Congress, not once — but in multiple years, including 2005, 2006, 2009 and 2017.

3.) Waters has used “creative” interpretations of campaign finance laws to benefit her family. Thanks to an obscure provision of federal campaign finance regulations, Waters and her daughter, Karen, created what the Washington Free Beacon (WFB) called a “cottage industry,” in which candidates pay to be included on mailers for the lawmaker’s endorsement.

“Karen Waters has pulled in hefty payments from the campaign to run a slate mailer operation after the FEC issued an advisory opinion in October 2004 allowing Waters to run the operation from the Citizens for Waters, her mother’s campaign committee. Prior to 2006, Karen ran the arrangement through LA Vote, a state committee in California,” according to the WFB.

“Karen [Waters] is in charge of slate mailers, or endorsement mailers, in which candidates pay Rep. Waters’ campaign to appear on mailers that are sent to more than 200,000 residents in the South Central Los Angeles area, where Waters holds a good amount of clout. The mailers contain a sample ballot and quotes of support from Waters.”

The FEC filings reviewed by the Washington Free Beacon show Karen Waters will be paid approximately $200,000 by her mother’s campaign committee for the 2018 endorsement mailings.

Overall, Karen Waters is estimated to have received more than $650,000 from her mother’s campaign for endorsement mailers since 2006.

Mark Tapscott is a senior investigative journalist.

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