March 14th, 2009
09:00 AM ET
5 years ago

Congresswoman defends advocacy for minority banks

Rep. Maxine Waters, D-California, says she did nothing wrong in accepting help for a minority-owned bank that her husband holds stock in.
Rep. Maxine Waters, D-California, says she did nothing wrong in accepting help for a minority-owned bank that her husband holds stock in.

WASHINGTON (CNN) – California Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters maintains she did nothing wrong when she sought federal help last fall for a minority-owned bank in which her husband owns stock.

Waters, a senior member of the House Financial Services Committee, confirmed Friday that she set up a meeting last September with Treasury Department officials to address concerns from minority-owned banks impacted by the government takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, including OneUnited Bank.

Waters' husband, Sidney Williams, had been on the board of OneUnited Bank until last April, and still owns stock that was worth between $250,000 to $500,000 at the end of 2007, when Waters last filed congressional disclosure forms.

According to the New York Times, the chief executive of OneUnited used the meeting to ask for $50 million in bailout funds. The Times reported that Treasury officials attending the meeting, including Jeb Mason, did not know at the time about Waters' ties to OneUnited Bank. Waters did not attend the meeting but did send her chief of staff.

In a statement released Friday, Waters says the meeting with Treasury officials was requested by the National Bankers Association (NBA), the trade organization for minority-owned banks and that she followed up on the request, as did other members of Congress.

"Recent press reports have raised questions about my advocacy on behalf of minority banks. Ultimately, however, these articles only revealed one thing: I am indeed an advocate for minority banks," said Waters.

"Although both my supporters and detractors often refer to me as influential, the truth is that I had no influence on what Bush Administration officials in the Treasury Department or other departments did."

Waters' statement doesn't address the key issue of whether or not she disclosed her husband's position with OneUnited Bank when seeking the meeting
with the Treasury Department

House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank was aware of Waters' potential conflict of interest, according Frank spokesman Steve Adamske, who said Frank told Waters that he would work with then Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson to add a provision to the TARP legislation dealing with minority owned
banks.

"Our staff worked on it. We never talked to anybody in Waters' office about it, " said Adamske, Frank's spokesman.

Adamske says the Treasury Department ultimately granted OneUnited Bank $12 million dollars.

Mason, the Treasury official, told the Los Angeles Times that Waters' connection did not influence the Treasury Department's decision to grant OneUnited the bailout funds, but said Waters was a key figure in setting up the meeting that led to it.

"When a member of the financial services committee calls, you pay special attention," Mason told the Los Angeles Times.

Waters insists she was not trying to get bailout funds specifically for the bank her husband has ties to, but to all minority owned banks.

"I maintain that my advocacy on behalf of small, women, minority and community banks is appropriate. I will continue to bank and do business with minority depository institutions and work on behalf of my constituents, and the institutions that serve them." said Waters.


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soundoff (51 Responses)
  1. Franky

    "Opponents of President Bush used the 2000 election results and the court decisions to question the legitimacy of President Bush to serve as President," Posey said in a statement. "Opponents of President Obama are raising the birth certificate issue as a means of questioning his eligibility to serve as president. Neither of these situations are healthy for our Republic."

    Can I say something?? Whoever is questioning this and I know this is a political stunt, you are cursing in front of God. Did he just compare the 2000 election to the birth certificate of my boy?? Did he just do that?? So, let me get this straight...this guys right here, is questioning my boy, whether he deserves to be president?? Or is he legit?? You know, this is one of the most idiotic things I ever seen and let me guess, is a white guy doing this, huh? This Posey guy, must come from a different place, huh? You know, I guess is true, Republicans do wanna lose...

    March 14, 2009 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  2. obama lied

    This is what they do. Are you catching on America?

    March 14, 2009 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  3. Anita

    People aren't questioning her commitment to minority banks.

    They are questioning her conflict of interest and involvement in obtaining her husbands bank 12 million dollars in government funding.

    It was wrong for her to be involved in any manner in the funding of his bank, she should have stayed away completely from that financial process.

    March 14, 2009 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  4. Minnesotan

    Republicans steal our money outright and Democrats shift it to their relatives. Our entire system is corrupt.

    March 14, 2009 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  5. katiec

    Well, why don't we require all politicians to submit their portfolio, interests, family members involved in all financial institutions?
    Until this is done no one has the right to accuse others.

    March 14, 2009 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  6. Shelby

    Politics as usual. And nothing like playing the race card to get a leg up in the world.

    March 14, 2009 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  7. Marcia, Marcia, Marcia in CA

    She was wrong and her actions were inappropriate and SHE knows it.

    March 14, 2009 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  8. Mike Syracuse, NY

    Being an advocate for minority banks is one thing. Being an advocate for a minority bank in which your husband owns $500,000 of stock is just plain old corruption. Thrown the bum out.

    March 14, 2009 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  9. Scott, Tucson

    "Waters, a senior member of the House Financial Services Committee" So I guess she was to busy funneling money to her husband bank to notice the banking institution meltdown.

    March 14, 2009 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  10. Jorge

    Where there's smoke, there's fire!

    March 14, 2009 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  11. ben

    I suppose Dick Chaney wanted a war in Irak so his company, Haliburton
    could make a fortune in contracts without even bidding. Oh sure, he retired as CEO, but do you think he did not have a vested interest in Haliburton? I too am in favor of helping the little guy. Small banks did not put us in this finacial crisis. Big banks did. Yet the govt wants to help the wolves that ate the sheep, and not the small prairy dogs that harm no one.

    March 14, 2009 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  12. Charlie in Maine

    Isn't politics just fasinating. The same people who turned a blind eye as the Bush Administration shelled out 12 million dollars an hour to the Iraq War with a subsantial amount going to no-bid king Haliburtin (Dick Cheney's co) are now focussing their rightous out-rage at minority banks for a perceive conflict of interest.

    I hope they investigate fraud everywhere and if they find it prosocute it.

    March 14, 2009 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  13. catmom

    This is what who does? Just curious...

    March 14, 2009 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  14. tired of the lies

    Why does it seem that there are so many Democrats with questionable ethics when it comes to banks? Chris Dodd, Barney Frank and now Maxine Waters? This makes me feel confident that the Demcrats are keeping the Public's best interest in mind. When are voters going to wake up and vote these bums out?

    March 14, 2009 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  15. indy

    First, Franky, your comment is on the wrong story, not sure if it's your doing or CNNs. Anyway, I agree with Anita. It's not the Congresswoman's support of minority owned banks that's the problem, but this particular bank. I'd feel the same if it was a Republican or Democrat, black or white. Stop playing favorites, it's our country's biggest problem!

    March 14, 2009 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  16. mother of a soldier

    Racism will be alive and thriving with things like this going on! Stop using the race card!

    March 14, 2009 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  17. Lori

    The Democrats still have a long way to go to catch up to the Republicans who are corrupt.

    March 14, 2009 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  18. dg

    What about Eric Cantor's wife, Diana? She is a Director for a subsidiary of Bank Of New York. Her bank took 267.2 million from the 700 billion dollar bailout last fall. Of course, I'm sure she and Eric were unaware of this fact.

    March 14, 2009 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  19. Keith in Austin

    Wake up America! We're being fleeced by our Democratic-controlled Congress while most are lost in "the Chosen One's" syrupy rhetoric!

    March 14, 2009 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  20. Elmer

    Maxine got cught...that is the bottom line. We can only hope each of them gets snagged with their hands in the cookie jar so they are exposed by the media. Maybe that will stop them from stealiong our money for pork. Pelosi, Reid, Frank, ...and the list goes on....

    March 14, 2009 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  21. Lush Limprick and Osama bin Laden share the same vision for America - FAILURE!

    Reading the article it is apparant all she did was set up the meeting for the benefit of minority banks, she did not attend, there were multiple folks from the NBA in the meeting, the the bank her had stock invested in, requested 50 million and the Bush administration awarded 12 million.

    There is no allegation of abuse of power or bribery on the part of anyone.

    The only difference between this and allegations of Palin's abuse of power and this case if Palin was a republican and was investigated by a committe of 3 whom she appointed?

    When it goes to an ethics committee and found guilty then you repubs may have a case.

    March 14, 2009 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  22. Billy J

    I wish all politicians were not related to powerful executives and movers and shakers in the political and private world. But they aren't. I am sure if they wanted to put the time and effort into investigative journalism instead of just re-printing what they are given by interested parties (on both sides) we would see tons of what appears on the outside to be conflicts of interests with other politicians family members. Specifically ... are you trying to tell me that Republicans don't have bankers in thier immediate families that have benefitted from bailout money that those same republicans helped steer towards their state or national banks?

    March 14, 2009 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  23. Pat F

    katiec, two wrong things about your post. Firstly, the Waters connection isn't some distant relative, second cousin, three times removed. It's her husband. And politicians absolutely have to disclose immediate family conflicts of interest.

    Secondly, of course we have the right to question this. We have every right to question this. Your proposal does not change the country's right to question the ethics of its elected officials – sorry.

    Bottom line: Waters is a crook, always has been. She is trying to convert herself into a victim instead of what she is – a simple corrupt politician. Sorry, Maxine – that dog won't hunt anymore. You can only cry wolf so many times.

    March 14, 2009 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  24. Edward

    This is the same person who was opposing more regulations in the 90's for Fannie and Freddie ... she is no good.

    March 14, 2009 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  25. FreeNLovIt

    Whatever we do, we must do it with integrity.

    March 14, 2009 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
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