Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) intervened with regulators on behalf of a bank to which she had personal financial ties, the Wall Street Journal reports. Waters also greased the skids with Treasury to get the bank a meeting it desired. Waters and her husband own as much as $500,000 in OneUnited stock:
Ms. Waters and her husband have both held financial stakes in the bank. Until recently, her husband was a director. At the same time, Ms. Waters has publicly boosted OneUnited’s executives and criticized its government regulators during congressional hearings. Last fall, she helped secure the bank a meeting with Treasury officials.
Her involvement isn’t new. Ms. Waters has detailed her financial ties in a series of federal disclosure forms and has been vocal in public in support of the bank. Those ties, however, have received little public attention. Nor is it well known how the influential lawmaker has over the years acted to support the bank and its executives.
Such potential conflicts of interest are more serious as the banking system’s crisis has led the government to take an increasingly active role in overseeing financial institutions, including OneUnited. The financial-services committee on which Ms. Waters sits oversees banking issues, and the lawmaker is a potential future chairman.
And the LA Times notes that OneUnited got some tasty bailout bucks, too:
Rep. Maxine Waters, one of Los Angeles’ most enduring liberal politicians, has come under scrutiny because of bailout funds that went to a bank in which her husband had owned stock and served on the board.
Waters was a senior member of the congressional committee dealing with the financial crisis when OneUnited Bank — one of the nation’s largest minority-owned institutions — received $12 million in bailout funds.
Her husband, Sidney Williams, served on the bank board until early last year and held at least $500,000 in investments in the bank in 2007, the most recent year for which public financial disclosure statements are available.
A month before Congress enacted the bailout program, Waters helped set up a meeting between the chief executive of the bank, representatives of other financial institutions and Treasury officials.
“When a member of the financial services committee calls, you pay special attention,” said Jeb Mason, who was a high-ranking Treasury official last fall.
Did Americans go deep into debt to send bailout money to politically-connected banks and to prop up the investment portfolios of elected officials? Apparently, yes we did.
Of course, conflicts of interest are nothing new for Democrats on Congressional committees. Barney Frank had a personal relationship with an executive of Fannie Mae while sitting on the same committee, which oversees Fannie Mae operations. Chris Dodd took sweetheart loans from Countrywide Mortgage, one of the malefactors in the subprime-lending collapse. Waters’ connections to OneUnited and her serial conflicts of interest make this look more like the rule for Democrats rather than the exception.
The last time members of Congress intervened with federal regulators in the financial industry on behalf of their own interests, they called the perps the Keating Five. The media ripped the five Senators, including John McCain, who played a more tangential role than the other four — all Democrats. Three of the others actually intervened to stop federal regulators from discovering that Lincoln Savings and Loan, owned by political heavyweight Charles Keating, was insolvent.
During the presidential campaign just a few months ago, Democrats tried to paint McCain as corrupt by blowing his role in the Keating Five out of proportion. In fact, they made it sound as though McCain did essentially what Waters has done here, and screeched about corruption. Now that Waters has been shown to interfere with regulators to protect the personal financial interests of her family and her contributors (OneUnited has generated over $12,000 in donations to Waters), will these same Democrats take action against corruption — as they themselves defined it in the fall of 2008? Or are they more interested in culturing corruption?