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Hey, What Happened To That Maxine Waters Ethics Trial?

The Ethics Committee is in disarray, with an equal number of Democrats and Republicans represented and the Democrats having internecine battles.

by
Patrick Richardson

Bio

July 24, 2011 - 12:00 am

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) was supposed to have faced trial for ethics violations last year, but the trial was suddenly delayed until after the November 2010 elections.

Waters stands accused of obtaining $12 million in TARP money for the bank OneUnited, on whose board her husband Sidney Williams once sat, and in which he owned more than $350,000 in stock. According to a story by the Washington Post in September of last year, Waters — together with Rep. Barney Frank, (D-MA) who was then the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee — changed a law and obtained the financing.

Her trial was delayed because new evidence had supposedly come to light. What that evidence is was not specified. But according to a story on SFGate.com, at least part of that evidence was an email from her grandson Mikael Moore, who is also her chief of staff:

The e-mail never mentioned OneUnited. Moore’s memo said Waters was “under the explicit impression” that provisions affecting small and minority-owned banks were still in the bailout bill …

Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., chairman of the Financial Services Committee, said in an interview that he inserted the provision for minority banks to protect OneUnited — because it is based in his state.

He said of Waters, “We never discussed it.”

The provision sought by Waters — and inserted by Frank — told the Treasury Department that it should consider — for bailout money — banks that had an asset size of $1 billion or less, and whose size dropped to a lower range because they owned devalued preferred stock in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

All of that is true, but the only bank that language would affect was OneUnited.

OneUnited has had its own share of trouble. As PJM reported in late September of last year, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), the then-ranking member and current chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, sent a letter to the chairman of the FDIC demanding to know if they maintained a list of banks with connections to prominent members of Congress or the media — and if OneUnited was on the list. PJM went so far as to send a Freedom of Information Act request to FDIC demanding the list in question or proof it did not exist. The request was flatly denied. PJM then sent a second, more specific FOIA request, and to date has not received a response.

OneUnited and it’s CEO Kevin Cohee came under fire from FDIC for executive expenses as well. The Massachusetts-based OneUnited, while asking for $12 million in bailout assistance, had been paying for a 2008 Porsche and a beachfront house in Santa Monica, CA, for Cohee and his wife, Teri Williams Cohee, who is the bank president.

OneUnited had also been heavily criticized for it’s lending practices, noted The Hill:

Boston-based OneUnited Bank had a history of receiving poor performance evaluations, and officials at Treasury and the FDIC were aware of the negative ratings and discussed them before doling out the loan, according to e-mails and other documents Judicial Watch obtained from the Treasury Department through a Freedom of Information Act request ….

One e-mail produced from the FOIA request sent from former Treasury Senior Adviser Michael Scott to Director of the Office of Financial Institutions Mario Ugoletti is dated Sept. 15, 2008, months before banks were selected to receive bailout funds. The e-mail cites a 2004 evaluation criticizing the bank’s service to the state of Massachusetts. The report noted that in 2002 and 2003, the bank administered just one loan.

Waters’ trial has yet to be rescheduled, and there is no word from the committee as to when it might be.

Congressional sources tell PJM the committee is in complete disarray due to internecine warfare between the Democrats on the committee as the Republicans are forced to stand back and watch. While other committees can get on with their work regardless of whether the minority has its house in order or not, the House Ethics Committee, which has an equal number of members of both parties, cannot. Until it does the Waters trial hangs in limbo.

Patrick Richardson has been a journalist for almost 15 years and an inveterate geek all his life. He blogs regularly at www.otherwheregazette.com, which aims to be like another SF magazine, just not so serious.
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