The L.A. Democrat has chutzpah, give her that. Rather than fessing up to an obvious conflict of interest concerning her role in getting bailout money for a bank her husband had an interest in, Rep. Maxine Waters has chosen to find fault with somebody else - namely, former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson. Waters is being charged by a House ethics panel of arranging a 2008 meeting between Treasury officials and executives from OneUnited Bank. The bank later received $12 million in TARP aid. At a press conference this morning - complete with Power Point presentation - here's how she framed her defense:
The question at this point should not be why I called Secretary Paulson but why I had to. It should be why a trade association representing over 100 minority banks could not get a meeting at the height of the crisis. ... I did not suggest any solution or ask for any favors. I did not ask for a meeting for any individual bank, including OneUnited Bank. I did not suggest who would be participants in that meeting. I did not attend that meeting. And there was no such thing as TARP at that time.
I have one word for Rep. Waters: recusal. It's what judges, corporate directors, and, yes, lawmakers, normally do when facing an issue in which there is a potential conflict of interest. It would have been the right thing to do. Just release a statement to the effect that, "I want to remind everyone of my husband's financial position with OneUnited, and while I'm happy to help minority bankers in any general way I can, I don't think it's appropriate for me to be involved beyond that point." Rep. Barney Frank suggested as much when he advised her to "stay out of it." But Waters apparently doesn't believe that rules - as well as negative perceptions - should apply to her. So now she's blaming Paulson for her troubles. From the WSJ:
In January, Ms. Waters acknowledged she made a call to the Treasury on OneUnited's behalf. The bank's capital, which was heavily invested in shares of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, was all but wiped out with the federal takeover of the two mortgage giants, and the bank was seeking help from regulators. OneUnited eventually secured bailout funds under the government's $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, which was set up later that month. In a brief interview in January, Ms. Waters said she was unaware the bank received $12 million of TARP money, which arrived in December. OneUnited was "just a small" bank, she said.