The House ethics committee has announced charges against Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Water, who is from California. Waters used her congressional authority to meet with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson on behalf of the Massachusetts-based OneUnited bank, in which her husband, as a former director, owned $250,000 of stock. OneUnited eventually received $12 million in federal bailout funds Here's what people are saying so far about the case, which comes as fellow Democratic Congressman Charlie Rangel is mired in his own ethics investigation.
- Waters Denies Guilt but Had Earlier Doubted Ethics The New York Times' Eric Lipton writes, "Representative Maxine Waters admitted to another House member in late 2008 that she probably would have a conflict of interest if she intervened on behalf of a bank in which her husband owned stock — but she did so anyway, according to a report released Monday by the Office of Congressional Ethics. Ms. Waters, Democrat of California, said Monday that she had done nothing wrong and that she would fight the charge, despite the risk of political damage from a trial, because it was unfounded. Ms. Waters said she was simply standing up for an association of minority banks, not a bank that her husband owned stock in, noting that she has long been an advocate of minority-owned banks."
- How About Investigating Big Bank Bailouts? Gawker's Jim Newell gets huffy. "This is the conflict-of-interest they're investigating most thoroughly, for the bailouts? Maybe next they'll go after 'Treasury, Congress and the Fed gave hundreds of billions of dollars to their best friends, the biggest bankers,' but don't count on it. It would be a much bigger pain in the ass."
- Politico Finds Racial Angle Politico's John Bresnahan and Jonathan Allen, noting that both Rangel and Waters are black, raise "questions about race and whether black lawmakers face more scrutiny over allegations of ethical or criminal wrongdoing than their white colleagues. ... The question of whether black lawmakers are now being singled out for scrutiny has been simmering throughout the 111th Congress, with the Office of Congressional Ethics a focal point of the concerns. At one point earlier this year, all eight lawmakers under formal investigation by the House ethics committee, including Rangel and Waters, were black Democrats. All those investigations originated with the OCE, which can make recommendations — but takes no final actions — on such cases."
- Image Trouble for Democrats USA Today's John Fritze notes that "the 10-term veteran the second lawmaker to face an ethics trial just months before the midterm election. ... The new allegations come less than a week after an investigative panel formally charged Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., with 13 ethics violations stemming from donations he solicited for an education center bearing his name and his failure to pay taxes. Rangel has said his lawyers are trying to negotiate a settlement to avoid a lengthy trial." Could the two investigations mar the party in November? The L.A. Times' Richard Simon says the combination of cases "has added to Democrats' woes as they fight to hold onto their House majority in the November midterm election."