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Read the Ethics Findings for Rep. Maxine Waters

An independent ethics panel found that Rep. Maxine Waters of California may have improperly stepped in on behalf of a bank in which her husband, Sidney Williams, had a financial stake.

Rep. Maxine Waters, a California Democrat, will likely face a public ethics trial much like the one that Rep. Charles Rangel of New York will face.

The Office of Congressional Ethics, an independent panel, said it had found “a substantial reason to believe” that Waters may have violated House ethics rules when she used her position on the Financial Services Committee to arrange a meeting between Treasury Department officials and representatives of the National Bankers Association, a trade association for minority-owned banks.

Here’s what the ethics panel's report had to say about that meeting and her possible conflict of interest (read the full report in our document viewer):

The discussion at the meeting centered on a single bank—OneUnited. Representative 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.

In 2007, reported the Los Angeles Times, Waters’ husband, Sidney Williams, held at least half a million dollars’ worth of investments in the bank. The meeting between Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and the National Bankers Association representatives—most of which had connections to the bank, OneUnited—occurred in September 2008.

In October 2008, as we noted, regulators accused OneUnited’s management of unsound banking practices and excessive executive perks.

Nonetheless, in December, OneUnited received a $12 million piece of the bailout. Waters denied knowing about the bailout and has denied wrongdoing in this case. Both the Treasury and the bank denied that Waters’ involvement resulted in the handing out of the bailout money.

A 2009 L.A. Times piece, however, indicates that Waters knew she could have a conflict of interest, and told this to her committee chairman, Barney Frank:

House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) said in an interview Thursday that he advised Waters last fall to "stay out of it" because he knew her husband had served on the bank board.

Frank said Waters was concerned about the plight of minority-owned banks, as was he.

"She acknowledged that 'Sidney had been on the board. I could have a conflict here,' " Frank said. "I said, 'Fine, just stay out of it, I'll deal with it.' "

Waters has maintained that she did not violate House rules and criticized the ethics panel for drawing “negative inferences where there are none.”

“I am not convinced the process for investigating and examining House ethics cases is fair,” Waters said. Both Waters and Rangel are leading members of the Congressional Black Caucus, whose members have alleged that the Office of Congressional Ethics process unfairly targets African-Americans.

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