Waters' ethics troubles add to Democrats' woes

In this Oct. 28, 2009 file photo, Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., is seen on Capitol Hill in Washington. A House investigative panel has charged California Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters with violating ethics rules. Waters, a senior member of the House Financial Services Committee, would face a trial in the fall unless she negotiates a settlement. The specific charges against Waters were not made public in the announcement Monday from the House ethics committee. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

August 2, 2010 8:46:54 PM PDT
Another high ranking Democrat is in hot water on Capitol Hill. Monday, the House ethics committee charged Los Angeles Congresswoman Maxine Waters with breaking several ethics rules. She is the second house Democrat to be charged in the past two weeks.

What is unusual is these ethics cases almost never go to a public hearing. Charlie Rangel, whose numerous alleged violations have been well documented, could settle for a reprimand. Waters could get substantially less than that. But both want a public hearing before a House ethics subcommittee. That is a political problem for the Democrats.

Waters is accused of a conflict of interest, steering Treasury Department officials to meet with officials of OneUnited bank during the 2008 financial crisis. Waters' husband sat on the bank's board and was a large investor in the bank and shortly after the meeting OneUnited got a $12 million bailout; money the bank has yet to repay.

In a statement released Monday Waters said, "I have not violated any House rules, therefore I simply will not be forced to admit something I did not do."

Last week a similar committee took up charges against Rangel.

"As members of the adjudicatory subcommittee we are neither accusers nor are we defenders, our job is to act impartially," Rep. Zoe Lofgren," D-Calif., said last week as Rangel's case moved towards a public hearing. Lofgren is chair of the full committee.

Waters wants the same kind of hearing, though it spells political trouble for congressional Democrats and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

On 'This Week with Christiane Amanpour,' Pelosi said she is not involved.

"It is independent, it is confidential, classified, secret, whatever, we don't know what it is but we do respect the work that the members of the committee do," Pelosi said.

UC Berkeley political scientist and congressional expert Eric Schlicker says Pelosi maybe hands-off with regards to the committee, but not with those accused.

"It's almost certainly the case that over the last couple of weeks Rangel and Waters heard from the leadership, either directly or indirectly, asking begging pleading with them to try and cut a deal," Schlicker said.

Schlicker points out the last thing the Democratic leadership wants is two ethics hearings going on in the weeks before the November election.

"And certainly something that going to garner headlines and live television coverage and press attention," he said.

Schickler says it is even sticker for Democrats because both Waters and Rangel are African-American members of the House.

Oakland Congresswoman Barbara Lee is chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. She is not commenting on the two members of her caucus that are facing ethics charges.

When Pelosi took over leadership of the House she promised to end the culture of corruption. Republican leaders are already raising that issue, saying she failed to keep her promise to drain the swamp.

As for Schickler's assertions that Rangel and Waters have been pressured to settle, Pelosi's office says she has not interfered.


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