Black Voice News, News Report, Chris Levister
Following not one but three standing ovations, characteristically Waters stood before supporters and flashed her trademark thumbs up.
“It been a long month,” she said during a conference on U.S. relief efforts in Haiti.
Waters has been at the center of a political firestorm since the House Ethics Committee charged the formidable Democrat with violating ethics rules.
The charges against Waters, a 10- term California congresswoman, focus on whether she broke the rules in requesting federal bailout help for a bank where her husband was a board member and owned stock. She immediately denied the charges and requested a public trial believing that she has done nothing wrong.
The fiery 71-year-old liberal who won election to the state Assembly in 1976 and to Congress in 1990 is training her fire on the ethics panel, saying the allegations are ‘as thin as the paper on which they’re printed’ — and she contends she’ll prove it in an open trial.
Waters is accused of violating three rules – one that requires it’s members to “behave at all times in a manner that shall reflect creditability on the House,” a second that prohibits lawmakers from using their influence for personal gain and a third forbids the dispensing of favors.
The documents contend that Waters’ chief of staff, Michael Moore, worked to help OneUnited Bank, even as Rep. Barney Frank (D Mass.) chairman of the House Financial Services Committee urged Waters to “stay out of it” because of her husband Sidney Williams’ ties to the bank.
OneUnited received $12 million in federal bailout funds in December 2008. Williams had been a board member of OneUnited from 2004 to 2008 and, at the time of the ‘arranged’ meeting in question, was a stockholder. The report said Waters may have violated House rules by permitting compensation to accrue to her interest and by having a conflict of interest.
Waters said in her statement, "The record will clearly show that in advocating on behalf of minority banks, neither my office nor I benefited in any way, engaged in improper action or influenced anyone."
She added that she fully disclosed her assets as required by House rules, "even going above and beyond the requirements by disclosing my assets at several Financial Services Committee hearings. In sum, the case against me has no merit."
She said the accusations stem from her advocacy work for minority communities and businesses.
She said it was the National Bankers Association that requested the meeting with Treasury Department officials. The meeting was held on behalf of the association, not OneUnited.
"I followed up on the association's request by asking then- Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson to schedule such a meeting, as did other members of Congress. Secretary Paulson recognized that the NBA's concerns about the future of minority banks were valid and arranged for a meeting.”
"No benefit, no improper action, no failure to disclose, no one influenced: no case," said Waters, who chairs the Financial Services subcommittee on housing and community opportunity.
The crowd that cheered Waters Saturday included a who’s who of local African American leaders.
Rev. John J. Hunter one of LA’s most influential pastors called Waters, “a tireless champion for the poor and working class.”
“Whenever you buck status quo leadership you will be attacked,” said Hunter referring to Waters.
“Perseverance and audacity usually win,” said City Councilman Bernard Parks. Renowned activist-scholar Maulana Karenga said Waters “is in the tradition of Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman and so we must stand by her.”
Outside the church a small crowd chanted ‘we’ve come this way before’.
“She’s a warrior for the people,” said Ellie Cooper part of a group who traveled to the church from Riverside to offer Waters moral support.
“Don’t let them make imaginary evils, when you know they have so many real ones to encounter,” said Cooper.
Waters is no stranger to controversy.
In 2004 her family was accused of making more than $1 million by doing business with companies and candidates the congresswoman had helped. That year, Waters won re-election with more than 80% of the vote.
The case against Waters comes as Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-NY.) another prominent Congressional Black Caucus member faces an ethics trial in the run up to what is shaping up to be a tough year for Democrats.