A House panel announced Monday that it has charged Rep. Maxine Waters with violating ethics rules, making her the second longtime Democratic lawmaker to have an election-season trial.
The charges against Waters, a 10-term California congresswoman, focus on whether she broke the rules in requesting federal help for a bank where her husband was a board member and owned stock. She immediately denied the charges.
The House ethics committee’s announcement comes just days after it outlined 13 charges against Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., which included failing to disclose assets and income, delayed payment of federal taxes, and improper use of a subsidized New York apartment for his campaign office.
The high-profile trials could further damage the Democratic Party’s political standing in the congressional elections this fall.
The charges against Waters, a senior member of the House Financial Services Committee, were filed July 28 by a investigative panel but not announced until Monday. An eight-member subcommittee of four Democrats and four Republicans will now conduct Waters’ trial.
A year-old report by the Office of Congressional Ethics said that in September 2008, Waters asked then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson to have Treasury officials meet representatives from the National Bankers Association, a trade group representing minority-owned banks.
At a meeting and subsequent follow-up activity through Waters’ office, the discussion centered on OneUnited Bank.
Waters’ husband, Sidney Williams, had been a board member of OneUnited from 2004 to 2008 and, at the time of the meeting, was a stockholder. The report said Waters may have violated House rules by having a conflict of interest.
Waters said she fully disclosed her assets as required by House rules and claims that the case against her has no merit.
She said it was the National Bankers Association that requested the meeting with Treasury Department officials and the meeting was held on behalf of the association, not OneBank.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.