The committee charged the 10-term California Democrat with three counts of violating House rules and the federal ethics code in connection with her effort to arrange a 2008 meeting between Treasury officials and representatives with OneUnited bank.
The panel said Waters, who sits on the Financial Services Committee, broke a House rule requiring members to behave in a way that reflects “creditably” on the chamber. The committee said that by trying to assist OneUnited, she stood to benefit directly, because her husband owned a sizable amount of stock that would have been “worthless” if the bank failed.
The committee also accused Waters of violating the “spirit” of a House rule prohibiting lawmakers from using their positions for financial gain, as well as a government ethics statute banning the dispensing of “special favors.”
Waters has vehemently denied wrongdoing and said she would rather defend herself at an ethics trial than admit to “something I did not do.”
In a motion to dismiss the charges, which the ethics panel has denied, Waters’s attorney, Stanley M. Brand, said the congresswoman had done nothing wrong.
“This committee asserts that Rep. Waters improperly used her position to ‘preserve her husband’s investment in OneUnited,’ ” he wrote. “Yet, after its exhaustive investigation, it cannot identify a single active step taken by Rep. Waters in furtherance of that goal.”
The release of the formal charges comes at a bad time for Democrats, as Waters is the second party lawmaker heading to a public trial after the August recess — with time running out before the November midterms. In late July, the House ethics committee charged Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) with 13 counts of breaking House rules and federal ethics statutes.
Now, for the third straight week, as House lawmakers return from recess Tuesday to pass a $26 billion state aid package, Democratic leaders must watch their legislative agenda take a backseat to ethics scandals that Republicans already are using against them.
The ethics committee last week released a detailed report, by the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), on Waters’s alleged wrongdoing in the OneUnited matter, but it did not outline the formal charges against her until Monday.
The panel’s investigative subcommittee, to buttress its case, released more information Monday about Waters’s involvement with OneUnited and a meeting she helped arrange between the National Bankers Association (NBA), a trade group of minority owned banks of which OneUnited is a member, and Treasury officials. Three of the four attendees NBA invited had ties to OneUnited, according to the OCE report…[ ]