March 14th, 2009
09:00 AM ET
11 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

"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. Simmy

    Republicans fan embers. The media fan the embers and turn them into a forest fire. This is the year of investigations. From the birth certificate of President Obama, to the tax issues of appointees. Republicans and their allies will continue fishing for scandals, because they have nothing concrete within their party to offer. They are so desperate, that they even planted the snitch, Gregg, to tarnish the image of the President. There whole platform is about image. It's not about the economy, the war or anything else facing Americans. It's about bringing down the Obama Administration. Their mantra is failure for the first black president. Their goal is to be able to say: We told you so. Blacks can't do what only we can do. Flat out straight; this is the bottom line. I rest my case.

    P.S. Concerning Rep. Waters, it appears that there might be a slight conflict of interest. It will probably be ruled a technicality, and she might get a warning from Congress to never let it happen again.

    March 14, 2009 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  2. Jim

    I'm a white guy who has no problems with minority banks having a disinterested advocate in government. The minority banks do not have the "clout" of normal banks, and help from a Congresswoman certainly levels the field to some extent.

    To help the bank that has your husband as a director, and in which your husband has substantial financial holdings, is a blatantly illegal conflict of interests.

    March 14, 2009 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  3. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    Investigate John McCain's holdings in Silver Bank of Arizona which failed in June '08 and his son Andrew McCain who was CEO and quit a month before it failed. Investigate that also.

    March 14, 2009 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  4. Willy Brown

    All is fair if your a democrat in Congress wanting some pork for her pocket book too.

    March 14, 2009 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  5. bill

    Reverse racism ...... plain and simple. No logical explanation for this other than racism and greed for her husband's welfare.

    March 14, 2009 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  6. gary

    is it any wonder americans have lost faith in our country with weasels like waters what happened to this once great party that was led by john kennedy franklin roosevelt and harry truman instead were stuck with people like pelosi reid waters i hope president obama can look back at theses men and be inspired and lead us to prosperity by the way i am a republican

    March 14, 2009 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  7. Bayousara

    It would be no different if I as a citizen and taxpayer asked for bailout monies for my personal bank.

    The early bird gets the worm.

    Ask and you shall receive.

    March 14, 2009 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  8. ib

    Liberals and Obama supporters are always covering for Obama with references to things that have nothing to do with what the article in question is about. Obama can do no wrong–liberals can do no wrong and conservatives are the scum of the earth but we should all fall in line behind Obama and kiss his butt.

    March 14, 2009 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  9. Tammy

    "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."
    Why should minority owned banks be getting preferential treatment? Does she think that her constituents are only women and minorities?

    March 14, 2009 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  10. I fear the future

    Real American's are not going to stand for these things much longer... regular people the ones who pay their taxes and love this country will soon unite and rebel. They will be thinking it is time for the Government to be "cleaned up" the websites and petitions are more and more out there. The problem is they are not completely wrong; they will however go about it in extreme ways. I am a father and I worry for my children and the violence that will be coming inside our own country.

    March 14, 2009 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  11. malcolm

    This is the sort of cry wolf hypocrisy that just makes me sad – you have politicians who pocket _millions_ of dollars steering no-bid contracts and pork to their buddies but then someone simply calls a meeting on behalf of minority banks which are getting overlooked while we hand over billions to the behemoth financial institutions and folks scream conflict of interest when Waters' family probably has less money invested in the affected minority bank than what Bear Stearns spent on parties last year!!
    This feigned outrage nonsense needs to stop!!

    March 14, 2009 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  12. kid minneapolis

    Strong minority banks mean less-successful predatory lending in those areas. This is great for the economy as a whole.
    Investing in Americans is always good, that's why the GOP hates it and calls it socialism.

    March 14, 2009 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  13. Dennis

    The hypocrisy of Democrats like Waters is stunning. If she were a Conservative there would have been an investigation and she would have kicked out of Congress and thrown in jail by now. From the tax cheats in Obama's Cabinet to people like Waters, Frank and Dodd, the Dems have consistently been shown to be corrupt and haven't had to pay any price for it.

    March 14, 2009 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  14. john

    I find it funny how people can defend this woman's clear conflict in interest. People turn it into defending minority banks, when it is about a politician who may have gotten money for her husband's bank.

    March 14, 2009 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  15. joe

    This women is as corrupt as they come. Along with Barney Franks this women is more responsible then anyone in the counttry for the housing meltdown. As they say go to the tape. She is on record of defending Harold Rains, CEO of Fanny Mae and ripping the regulators a new one when they dared to bring up questions regarding Fanny and Freddie.

    This is simply outragous. I guess we cant expect anything else from someone who represents inner LA. I know many will call that a racist remark and you would be correct Maxine Waters is a racist.

    As long as who constituants continue to send who back to Congress they will be just as responsible as her for hurting them in the long run. All anyone has to do is to see how rich her, her husband and friends have become since she was went to Congress

    March 14, 2009 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  16. Mel of Alexandria, Virginia

    There is nothing wrong with her advocacy for the minority bank. She should have given full disclosure that her husband owns interest in the bank, but had she done so the Republican Administration might have withheld the funds just to stick it to her.(my take)

    However, full disclosure should have been made. Yet, in the climate of no disclosure by the Bush administration at the time, this is insignificant because those who acted were not doing her bidding.

    March 14, 2009 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  17. Scott, Tucson

    Maxine Waters...the face of the Democratic Party.

    March 14, 2009 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  18. independent now

    I am so tired of all the special interests in both parties. are we done yet????

    March 14, 2009 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  19. w.l. jones

    All election offical do there business with banks which all interconnected whether minority are not. As for who is and American Some of ancestor being in this country for ten of fifteen thousand years and after born here service in the military yet only been a citizen forty five years. I say shuuudup and get a life.

    March 14, 2009 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  20. Debby

    If her husband owns that much stock just get more people to invest in the bank and she won't need the bailout money.

    March 14, 2009 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  21. Jerry

    Why it is it a problem for the Republicans, they have lied to everyone about bailing out their friends who gave them big kick backs and never said a thing. At least Ms. Waters is telling everyone what she is all about in helping people.

    March 14, 2009 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  22. obama lied

    waters is such a liar.

    March 14, 2009 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  23. B

    This is the same thug that claimed Fannie Mae was doing a great job. She's always been racist and really doesn't try to hide that fact. I wish we could just remove every person from the White House and start fresh with new people. It's so full of thugs from both sides who think they are above the law and hide their money away or find some way to cheat on taxes. I'll be glad when the bank from overseas starts showing us names of people who stashed their money there. I bet a lot of movie stars will be on that list along with politicians.

    March 14, 2009 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  24. Kathy

    Democrat or Republican... Black or White..... This stinks. She is guilty as sin. She needs to go along with the rest of the bums in Washington.

    March 14, 2009 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |

    Stinks are coming out of Democrats party. What else will come out?

    March 14, 2009 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
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