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Maxine Waters speaks out against ethics charges

August 5, 2010 |  8:14 pm
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) took her battle against ethics charges to the airwaves Thursday night, proclaiming her innocence on a Los Angeles radio show and demanding that the details of the case against her be made public

“Democracy demands fairness,” the 10-term congresswoman said in her first interview since she learned last week that she was the subject of a Congressional Ethics Committee investigation into her actions involving a bank with ties to her husband that received federal bailout funds.

“I have 30 years in the business,” Waters said, “and I think it’s only fair that I be given a chance to be heard.”

A report released by the Office of Congressional Ethics this week said there is "substantial reason" to believe Waters may have violated House ethics rules in arranging a meeting between Treasury Department officials and representatives of OneUnited bank, where her husband was a stockholder. But the ethics committee has not released the findings of its investigation or any charges against her.

In the interview on the KCRW radio program Which Way L.A. on Thursday night, Waters said she is not able to discuss the charges herself because of a confidentiality agreement. But she defended the nature of the Treasury Department meeting and said it was not about securing bailout money for the bank her husband was connected to but was a broader meeting about the impact that the government takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac might have on minority banks.

“It was not to ask for [bailout] money,” Waters said. “This meeting was about what happens to those banks that had invested in Fannie and Freddy.”

According to the report from the Office of Congressional Ethics, Waters, a senior member of the congressional committee that oversees banking, arranged a meeting between Treasury Department officials and representatives of minority-owned banks in September 2008.

According to the report, discussion at the meeting "centered on a single bank -- OneUnited."

Waters' husband, Sidney Williams, served on the board of OneUnited from 2004 to 2008, and at the time of the meeting was a stockholder in the bank with assets valued between $500,000 and $1 million, according to the report.

Three months after the meeting, OneUnited received $12 million in bailout funds.

The ethics committee is due to release the findings of its investigative subcommittee when Congress returns from its summer recess in September, but Waters has asked the committee to provide the information now, before November's election.

“It just leaves people swinging in the wind,” she said of the current timetable. “I don’t think it’s due process.

-- Kate Linthicum