Jasmyne A. Cannick

*This week Los Angeles Congresswoman Maxine Waters is making headlines, only this time, it’s not for her feisty behavior on the floor of the House of Representatives on behalf of Blacks in New Orleans or the victims of the Haitian earthquake.  

The 71 year-old Congresswoman is being taken to task by the House Ethics Committee over her actions involving a bank with ties to her husband that received federal bailout funds.

The charges center around an investigative report that found “substantial reason” to believe that Waters, a senior member of the House committee that oversees banking, may have violated ethics rules when she called then-Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson to set up a meeting with Black owned banks, one of which was OneUnited Bank who, subsequently received a little over $12 million in bailout funds in 2008.

The Office of Congressional Ethics report, which is now paving the way for an ethics trial, suggests that Waters’ husband, Sidney Williams, who served on the OneUnited board from 2004 to 2008, and at the time of the September meeting was a stockholder in the bank, and may have personally gained from the bailout funds received by the bank.

If this is an example of being unethical and the corruption in Congress, then let me be the first to say, Congresswoman Maxine Waters thank you for being unethical and corrupt.

Of the $700 billion dollars created by the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, only about $73 million of that went to Black owned banks.  Had Congresswoman Waters not stepped in and called then-Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson, how much do you think Black banks would have gotten?

Congresswoman Maxine Waters

Yes, it’s true there are 42 members of the Congressional Black Caucus, but only one chairs the House committee that oversees banking and only one picked up the phone and made the call and actually did something about making sure that Black banks received some of the bailout money that was being so freely handed out.  

I don’t know about you, but as a taxpayer, constituent, and someone who actually worked in the House of Representatives, I actually take comfort in knowing that some of the money that was loaned to banks during the financial crisis went to Black banks.  

I mean what good is being a senior member of Congress if you can’t pick up the phone every now and then make things happen.

All members of Congress use their position to make things happen.  That’s what we expect them to do when we send them there-to use their position of power to represent the interests of their district and the people in it.

While I do believe there are members of Congress who are corrupt and unethical to some degree or another, when it comes to Waters, this just isn’t one of those examples.

I mean it’s not like she got her foreclosed on house back after it was sold, failed to pay taxes, or got caught with $90,000 in her freezer.

Which leads me to ponder why a committee who doesn’t have any power to take action whatsoever regarding the members it investigates, and can only issue recommendations, would be so far reaching with the accusations against Waters?

I mean really, if found guilty, what are the chances of Congresswoman Maxine Waters being reprimanded, censured, or expelled from the House by two-thirds of a Democratic led Congress?  And don’t look to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to do or say anything as it relates to Waters that might upset the Congressional Black Caucus in an election year.  Speaker Pelosi is a lot of things, but stupid, she ain’t.  The Democrats aren’t known for their ability to keep inside squabbles just that, inside the Party.  And while I know the Democrats are from saints, I dare say that the Republican’s need not bring up the issue of ethics and morality anytime soon.

Before charges of ethics violations are launched, there should be clear substantiated proof.  In this particular case, the fact that Waters’ husband ‘may have personally gained’ isn’t proof enough.  Did he or did he not make a profit?  And the question her constituents have to ask themselves is whether or not a possible profit by him outweighs the advocacy performed by Waters on behalf of the Black banks who ultimately received $73 million as a result of it?

The House Committee on Ethics attack on Waters is another example of wasted taxpayer funded dollars in the form of the salaries paid to the people overseeing this pointless and useless investigation.  An investigation that in the end, is only to going to leave the Congresswoman more beloved, revered, and idolized than she already is, not only by her constituents but across the nation and around the world.

Besides, I really don’t have that much faith in a committee who goes after one Congressmember for advocating on behalf of Black banks without all of the faces, and then acquits another for getting her house back after it was foreclosed on and sold to another buyer with the proof staring them dead in the face.  I’m just saying-how many people do you who have had their house foreclosed on and sold to someone else, only to have the bank give them back the house?

Based in Los Angeles, Jasmyne A. Cannick has worked on all three levels of government including as a Press Secretary in the California State Assembly and House of Representatives.  She currently serves as a political consultant and can be reached at www.jasmynecannick.com.