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Maxine Waters slams ethics charge: 'I have not violated any House rules'

Reps. Maxine Waters and Charles Rangel have both fought back against ethics allegations. The cases come as Democrats are fighting to maintain their control of Congress in the midterms.

Rep. Maxine Waters (D) of California delivers a statement on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, during a news conference to discuss the House ethics committee investigation.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

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Rep. Maxine Waters mounted a spirited defense Friday morning against ethics committee charges that she had helped a bank with connections to her husband.

The California Democrat, who has represented south-central Los Angeles for 20 years, said that her request for a meeting at the Treasury Department in September 2008 was made on behalf of a trade group for minority-owned banks, the National Bankers Association, not just a single bank. The bank in question is the Massachusetts-based OneUnited, where Representative Waters’s husband had been a board member and owned investments.

“I have not violated any House rules,” Waters said at a Capitol Hill press conference.

IN PICTURES: Ethically challenged Congressmen

The real issue, she added, is why minority-owned banks had such a hard time gaining access to Treasury Department officials during the fall 2008 financial meltdown. After the meeting, OneUnited received $12 million in aid from the $700 million TARP, or Troubled Asset Relief Program.

“This case is not just about me,” Waters said. “This case is also about access. It’s about access for those who are not heard by decisionmakers, whether it’s having their questions answered or their concerns addressed.”

Waters expressed chagrin that no hearing has been scheduled yet. Her chief of staff, who is also her grandson, made a PowerPoint presentation aimed at bolstering her defense.

The unusual press conference comes on the heels of New York Rep. Charles Rangel’s eyebrow-raising self-defense on the floor of the House Tuesday over his own House ethics case. Representative Rangel, a Democrat, faces 13 charges of violating ethics rules, including improper use of rent-controlled property, failure to pay taxes on a villa in the Dominican Republic, and using official stationery to raise money for an academic center named for him.

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The two cases, involving African-American members of Congress, have fueled charges that they were targeted because of their race. Waters herself has raised the allegation, but at Friday’s press conference, she said she did not want to discuss race.

The cases couldn’t come at a worse time for the Democrats, who are fighting to maintain their control of Congress in the Nov. 2 midterm elections. The image of two of their own mounting a vigorous public defense of themselves keeps alive the “culture of corruption” story line that Republicans are gleefully using in the campaign.

Four years ago, when Republicans still controlled both houses of Congress, the Democrats promised to “drain the swamp” of corruption if they ran Capitol Hill. At the time, numerous Republicans faced ethics charges, for financial and sexual misconduct.

IN PICTURES: Ethically challenged Congressmen


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