Rep. Maxine Waters on Friday defended herself against accusations that she violated House ethics rules when she sought the Treasury Department's help for a bank in which her husband was invested, saying that she did nothing wrong and that the charges are based on misunderstandings.
The California Democrat, during a Capitol Hill news conference, denied that she tried to use her authority as a member of Congress to influence Treasury to award OneUnited Bank with $12 million in federal aid.
"I have not violated any House rules," Mrs. Waters said. "I fully disclosed all of my financial information, as requested by House rules, and, in fact, went above and beyond what was required."
The lawmaker's rather subdued event before room full of reporters was in contrast to an unexpected speech Tuesday by Democratic colleague Rep. Charles B. Rangel of New York, who passionately defended himself on the House floor against a series of House ethics charges.
Mrs. Waters, who has called for a public hearing to try to clear her name, complained Friday that the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct has yet to scheduled one. Given the busy schedule Congress faces when it reconvenes in September, it's possible her pending hearing could be delayed until after the November congressional elections, a scenario she said was "unacceptable."
"It does not provide due process," Mrs. Waters said. "It prevents my constituents and the American public from getting answers."
The ethics office's report says that Mrs. Waters requested in 2008 that Treasury officials meet with representatives from the National Bankers Association (NBA), which represents more than 100 minority banks, including OneUnited. But in that meeting and other follow-ups, the report says that discussion centered on a single bank — OneUnited.
Mrs. Waters' husband had been a board member of OneUnited from 2004 to 2008 and, at the time of the meeting, was a stock holder of the bank.
Mrs. Waters said she long has worked to improve access to federal regulators for all of NBA's banks. She said she became involved in setting up the meeting only after NBA said it couldn't get Treasury to respond to requests to meet.
"I did not ask for any favors from the National Bankers Association," she said.
Weeks after the meeting, when OneUnited had inquired about receiving federal bailout money, Mrs. Waters said she discussed the situation to House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank, Massachusetts Democrat. She said she raised the issue with the chairman to assure him that she had no intent to influence Treasury's decisions to award OneUnited federal aid.
"We communicated with each other clearly," she said.
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