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Waters: 'I will not be a sacrificial lamb for anyone'

By the CNN Wires Staff
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Waters denies allegations against her
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Rep. Maxine Waters refutes allegations of ethical improprieties
  • Waters has been charged with helping a bank linked to her husband
  • Waters says she wants to go to trial
  • She is one of two prominent African-American Congressional Democrats facing ethic charges

(CNN) -- Rep. Maxine Waters, D-California, who is under investigation by the House ethics committee, said Tuesday she has not been given due process and she "will not be a sacrificial lamb for anyone."

The 10-term congresswoman is alleged to have helped steer federal bailout money to a bank in which her husband had a financial stake.

In a radio interview with CNN contributor Roland S. Martin on the Tom Joyner Morning Show, Waters said she is "not guilty of any violations" and she "want[s] to go to trial."

The House ethics committee released a report Monday detailing three counts against Waters and rejected her request for the charges to be dismissed.

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The 71-year-old Waters has been pushing the ethics panel to set a trial date before the midterm elections in November. But she told Martin Tuesday she doesn't expect that request to be granted.

"That's one of the issues of not having due process. When in the heck are you going to set up this hearing? We are on break and we don't think it's going to be before the November election," she said.

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 had 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, 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 said.

But Waters reiterated Tuesday that "the meeting was set up for NBA -- for all the minority bankers. Just like you have a representative for the chamber of commerce or for the Realtors, etc., that's what the meeting was for."

She said Kevin Cohee, OneUnited's chairman and chief executive officer, spoke up at the meeting, "and said, 'I'm an example of what's happening with minority banks' and went on to try and make his case for the fact that OneUnited was losing $50 million that they had invested in Fannie Mae."

"It just so happens that some of the officers -- at least one of the officers of OneUnited Bank -- happens to be the chairman of the NBA (National Bankers Association)," the congresswoman said.

The report also 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.'"

In the Tom Joyner Show interview Tuesday, Waters admitted she had spoken to Frank, but described the circumstances much differently than the report.

"I didn't go to him for advice. I went to him and told him, 'These are your constituents. They are headquartered in your district and they are now trying to find TARP. We're representing the National Bankers Association,'" Waters said.

"So then I said, 'Perhaps you need to take a look at this' and he said, 'Fine. Don't worry. You don't have anything to do with this. I will take care of it.' And, as a result of that, he started to work on it." she said.

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, the report said.

"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 refuted that allegation as well Tuesday.

"If you're going to wrap this all around creating these violations because I failed to supervise my staff, it doesn't hold water, they don't have any proof of that and I maintain that I want to go to trial or whatever they want to call it -- adjudicatory hearing -- because I think I don't deserve this," she said.

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.

The prospect of inquiries into the two high-profile Democrats has compounded the fears of congressional Democrats nervous about their prospects in mid-term elections 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.

Waters alluded to race Tuesday on Joyner's show, which is broadcast over the Internet on BlackAmericaWeb.com.

"The OCE (Office of Congressional Ethics) is poorly constructed. You don't know who is charging you with what or brought a claim against you or who brought the information to the OCE... of all the information claimed or accusations brought to them, they think that African-Americans are the only ones who they move further with investigation on," she said.

CNN's Alan Silverleib contributed to this report