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Rep. Waters goes on offensive in ethics probe

August 13, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) won't back down. In fact, the Los Angeles congresswoman accused of ethics violations went on the offensive, defending her role in gaining access for minority-owned banks with the Treasury Department during the height of the financial crises. Frustrated with the pace of the investigation, Waters made her case to the people and explained why she believes she didn't do anything unethical. She held a press conference laying out her defense on Friday morning.

"Neither my staff nor I engaged in any improper behavior, and we did not influence anyone, and we did not gain any benefit," she said.

The House Ethics Committee is investigating her for steering government bailout money to a bank in which her husband had financial interests.

One of the banks Waters represented was OneUnited Bank. Her husband used to sit on the bank's board, and he owned hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of stock when Waters approached the Treasury for help.

Still, she sees no wrong doing. In fact, Waters questioned the House Ethics Committee procedures, saying they're unfair.

"It does not provide due process. It prevents my constituents and the American public from getting answers," she said.

The bank that Waters intervened for did end up getting $12 million in bailout funds from the Treasury Department.

Also facing an ethics trial is House Democrat Charlie Rangel, who is accused of not declaring thousands of dollars in income on his tax returns. Like Waters, he admits no wrong doing.

"I ain't thinking about giving it up," he has said.

Rangel has dismissed the impact his trial will have with voters.

Some experts say the two ethics trials could hurt Democrats in the November elections, and Republicans are sure to remind voters of this pledge from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi back in 2006.

"We will make this the most honest, ethical and open Congress in history," she said.

Pelosi has made it clear she is willing to let the chips fall where they may in both ethics trials - stakes that could help turn the political tide.


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