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Waters hit with three counts by House ethics panel

By Alan Silverleib, CNN
Rep. Maxine Waters is pushing the ethics panel to set a trial date before the midterm elections in November.
Rep. Maxine Waters is pushing the ethics panel to set a trial date before the midterm elections in November.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The House ethics committee has filed three counts against Waters
  • The charges relate to her attempt to get aid for a bank with ties to her husband
  • The bank received $12 million in federal bailout funds
  • The ethics panel rejected Waters' request to dismiss the charges

Washington (CNN) -- The House ethics committee released a report Monday detailing three counts against Rep. Maxine Waters, D-California.

The report details alleged violations of House rules tied to the 10-term congresswoman's attempt to seek federal assistance for a bank with financial ties to her husband.

The committee rejected Water's request for the charges to be dismissed.

The 71-year-old Waters said Friday that she is pushing the ethics panel to set a trial date before the midterm elections in November.

Waters, a senior member of the House Financial Services Committee, helped arrange a meeting in September 2008 between Massachusetts-based OneUnited Bank and Treasury Department officials, according to ethics investigators.

OneUnited Bank ultimately received $12 million in bailout funds.

According to the report, Waters' husband owned almost 4,000 shares of OneUnited stock at the time of the meeting. The shares declined in value from more than $350,000 in June to $175,000 at the end of September -- the height of the Wall Street financial crisis.

Waters' husband was one of the bank's board members from 2004 to 2008.

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Waters, according to a separate preliminary report, called then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson "and requested that Treasury Department officials meet with representatives from the National Bankers Association," an organization representing more than 100 minority-owned banks.

"A meeting was in fact granted, however, the discussion at the meeting focused on a single bank -- OneUnited. Rep. Waters' husband had been a board member of the bank from 2004 to 2008 and, at the time of the meeting, was a stock holder of the bank."

The report states that Waters approached Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank, D-Massachusetts, to say that she was "in a predicament because her husband had been involved in the bank, but 'OneUnited people' were coming to her for help."

Waters, "according to (Frank) ... knew she should say no, but it bothered her. It was clear to (Frank) that this was a 'conflict of interest problem.'"

Frank's advice to Waters, the report states, was to 'stay out of it.'"

The report released Monday stated that Waters "agreed to refrain from advocating on behalf of OneUnited," but failed to instruct her chief of staff, Mikael Moore, from doing so.

Following the September 9 meeting between Treasury and National Bankers Association officials, Moore "was actively involved in assisting OneUnited representatives with their request for capital from Treasury and crafting legislation to authorize Treasury to grant the request" for financial assistance.

"Reasonable" people could construe Moore's "continued involvement in assisting OneUnited as the dispensing of special favors or privileges to OneUnited," the report concluded.

Waters is the second high-ranking Democrat now facing a public ethics trial this fall. New York Rep. Charlie Rangel, the former chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, has been accused of 13 violations of House rules involving alleged financial wrongdoing and harming the credibility of Congress.

Both trials could take place in September -- only a few weeks before the midterm elections. The prospect of inquiries into two high-profile Democrats has compounded the fears of congressional Democrats nervous about their prospects in November.

The growing likelihood of trials for Waters and Rangel also adds the explosive element of race to the political equation. Both representatives are leaders of the Congressional Black Caucus, and OneUnited Bank is one of the largest minority-owned banks in America.

CNN's Alan Silverleib contributed to this report

 
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