California House Democrat Maxine Waters defended herself against ethics charges Friday, reiterating that she did nothing wrong or improper in seeking federal help that could benefit a Los Angeles bank where her husband is an investor.
At a Capitol Hill press briefing, the veteran member of the Financial Services Committee said she has “not violated any House rules.”
Late last month, the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, also known as the Ethics Committee, said there was reason to believe Waters violated ethics rules when she helped arrange a meeting between U.S. Treasury officials and officials of Los Angeles-based OneUnited — ostensibly in their capacity as members of a bankers group worried about the future of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-backed housing finance entities in which minority banks were heavily invested.
At the meeting, the OneUnited officials asked for $50 million to cover its losses. Treasury officials said their rules would not allow that.
If OneUnited failed, Waters’ husband could lose his investment in the bank, which fluctuated between about $350,000 and $175,000.
On Friday, Waters said she had no prior knowledge of the special request by OneUnited, and saw her advocacy of the meeting as part of her long-standing efforts to assist minority- and women-owned businesses.
The bank later got financial aid under the federal rescue program known as TARP. Waters said by that time she had divorced herself from any actions affecting OneUnited out of concern it would appear improper because of her husband’s investment.
Waters has said her actions on behalf of OneUnited are similar to those of other members who have been investigated by the committee, but have had no charges brought.
Others have claimed a racial bias in the committee’s decisions.
Waters is the second member of the Congressional Black Caucus to face ethics charges this year.
Last month, the Committee said veteran New York legislator Charles Rangel may have violated House rules in fundraising for a college and other matters.
Waters said before taking questions Friday that she would not address any possible racial bias.
She said she came forward now because it’s possible it could be months before an ethics hearing on her case – even past Election Day – and that such a delay was “unacceptable.”