Thursday, March 12, 2009

Most Ethical Congress Ever! Maxine Waters Linked to Bailed-Out Bank

Just unreal. This isn't some loose trail of crumbs tying this unctuous woman to a bank who received bailout funds. It's her husband who stood to benefit, and herself, obviously, by extension.

In what may be an even more stunning development, it's the New York Times reporting this.

Don't they realize they're going to be called raaaacist?
Top banking regulators were taken aback late last year when a California congresswoman helped set up a meeting in which the chief executive of a bank with financial ties to her family asked them for up to $50 million in special bailout funds, Treasury officials said.

Representative Maxine Waters, Democrat of California, requested the September meeting on behalf of executives at OneUnited, one of the nation’s largest black-owned banks. Ms. Water’s husband, Sidney Williams, had served on the bank’s board of directors until early last year and has owned at least $250,000 in stock in the institution. Treasury officials said the session with nearly a dozen senior banking regulators had been intended to allow minority-owned banks and their trade association to discuss the losses they had incurred from the federal takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. But Kevin Cohee, OneUnited’s chief executive, instead seized the opportunity to plead for special assistance for his bank, federal officials said.

“Here you had a tiny community bank that comes in and they are not proposing a broader policy — they were asking for help for themselves,” said Steve Lineberry, a former Treasury aide who attended the meeting. “I don’t remember that ever happening before.”

Ms. Waters declined on Tuesday to comment on the meeting, or to say if her husband still owns OneUnited shares. Her staff released two letters that showed the meeting was initially called to discuss industry concerns broadly, not matters related just to OneUnited.

This from a woman who preached the virtue of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. A limitless amount of gall.
“It angers me,” said one former Treasury official, asking that his name not be used because he had not been authorized while at Treasury to speak about the gathering. “You got to know you have to be careful when you are dealing with people who you have personal relations with.”

While OneUnited did not get the $50 million it requested, the bank did become among the first minority-owned institutions to receive a cash infusion — $12 million — in December through the Treasury’s bank bailout effort, called the Troubled Asset Relief Program.
So, did her husband benefit?
A member of Congress should not be helping out a family friend, especially one they share business ties with” said Kenneth H. Thomas, a Florida banking consultant who has filed complaints with federal regulators about OneUnited’s lending practices. “The folks who really need help here is the community served by OneUnited — a community that is starving for credit. ”

Mr. Cohee and Treasury officials said the TARP money had nothing to do with the intervention by Ms. Waters. Mr. Cohee also suggested that criticism of his operations by federal banking regulators was racially motivated.

“This is where the race issue comes in,” he said.
Naturally. Nobody plays the race card more frequently than Waters, a truly odious human being. No question she's busy shuffling her deck.
Ms. Waters and Mr. Cohee have been outspoken advocates for fair treatment of African-Americans and other minorities by the nation’s banks — “silver rights,” Mr. Cohee called it during an interview in his Los Angeles office, where he prominently displays a photograph of him with the congresswoman. Indeed, in Los Angeles the bank has won praise for its record of helping minority businesses and lower-income residents.

Their interests first intersected in 2002, when Mr. Cohee was involved in a bidding war for Family Savings, a small, black-owned bank in Ms. Waters’ South Los Angeles District.

As a white-owned Illinois bank initially emerged as the winner, Ms. Waters made clear through the local news media that she opposed any deal in which Family would fall out of African-American hands. She was credited when the bank abruptly changed course and gave Mr. Cohee another chance to submit a winning bid.
Naturally, when it comes to the bank fiasco and Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac, another name pops up.
At the meeting were representatives from the offices of Representative Barney Frank and Senator John Kerry, both Democrats of Massachusetts, the home state of OneUnited, along with Ms. Waters’s chief of staff. As the hour-long meeting got underway, Treasury officials were surprised as Mr. Cohee and Mr. Cooper focused the discussion on their bank, not broader industry problems, participants said. Mr. Cohee made it clear that he wanted the federal government to somehow make up for their $50 million loss.

“They wanted money — cash,” said a former Treasury Department official who attended the meeting but asked not to be named, because he was not authorized to speak to reporters. “That is why they were there. It was very, very explicit.”
Can you say shakedown, boys and girls? You know you can.

Speaker of the Most Ethical Congress Ever, Queen Pelosi, was unavailable for comment.

H/T Lauren.

Update: It gets better.
Ms. Waters and her husband have both held financial stakes in the bank. Until recently, her husband was a director. At the same time, Ms. Waters has publicly boosted OneUnited's executives and criticized its government regulators during congressional hearings. Last fall, she helped secure the bank a meeting with Treasury officials.

Her involvement isn't new. Ms. Waters has detailed her financial ties in a series of federal disclosure forms and has been vocal in public in support of the bank. Those ties, however, have received little public attention. Nor is it well known how the influential lawmaker has over the years acted to support the bank and its executives.

Such potential conflicts of interest are more serious as the banking system's crisis has led the government to take an increasingly active role in overseeing financial institutions, including OneUnited. The financial-services committee on which Ms. Waters sits oversees banking issues, and the lawmaker is a potential future chairman.

Representatives of the bank and Ms. Waters didn't return calls seeking comment. Ms. Waters's congressional staff didn't respond to written questions about her and her husband's relationship with the bank.

Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, a watchdog group, says Ms. Waters should have recused herself from any matters involving the bank. If her support helped OneUnited, "it was a disservice to her constituents," Ms. Krumholz says.

Ms. Waters, who represents inner-city Los Angeles, hasn't made a secret of her family's financial interest in OneUnited. Referring to her family's investment, she said in 2007 during a congressional hearing that for African-Americans, "the test of your commitment to economic expansion and development and support for business is whether or not you put your money where your mouth is."

OneUnited's executives have donated $12,500 to Ms. Waters's election campaigns.
H/T NY Nana.

Of course nothing will come of this. Waters will simply cry racism and feckless Democrats will scurry for cover.

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