On Monday, the House ethics committee unveiled three formal charges against California Democrat Maxine Waters including a charge that she helped a bank in which her husband held stock receive $12 million in TARP funds. The alleged offenses come as another representative, Charlie Rangel, faces ethics problems of his own. While Waters and others have insinuated that she and Rangel are being targeted for their skin color—both are black—others are challenging that assumption. Today, commentators are wondering just how much trouble Waters is in.
So What Did Waters Actually Do? Rachel Slajda at Talking Points Memo gets in the weeds:
The bank had been heavily invested in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. When the mortgage giants went into government conservatorship, OneUnited was nearly wiped out. ... The bank asked the Treasury officials for $50 million to compensate it for the money it lost, but they refused -- there was no legal way to do so.
That same month, Waters spoke to Rep. Barney Frank, the chair of the banking committee, and told him her husband had once sat on the board of OneUnited. According to the committee, she didn't mention that he also still held stock. (Some $350,000, which dropped to $175,000 by Sept. 30.)
Frank told her "not to get involved" and that he would handle things related to OneUnited. Waters agreed.
But her chief of staff (and grandson), Mikael Moore, stayed in contact with OneUnited. Eventually, Congress approved TARP. OneUnited applied, was approved and received $12 million.
Are These All the Allegations? asks Michael Crowley at Time: "There's definitely a bad smell to Waters' role here. But if the worst the committee is alleging is problems of 'appearance' and 'spirit' and the honorable image of the House, that's a few miles short of, say, Duke Cunningham behavior. Not that Republicans are likely to dwell on that distinction."
Here Comes the Spin, writes Mary Katharine Ham at The Weekly Standard: "Both Waters and Rangel are threatening to go to public trial to fight the charges, which would mean two, simultaneous ethics trials for Democrats less than two months before the November elections. The resulting high-profile criticism for the two lawmakers would undoubtedly lead to numerous racism accusations and another entirely unhelpful and rancorous 'national conversation' about race. But in the public consciousness, Waters and Rangel won't be symbols of black, corrupt representatives or even Democratic, corrupt representatives (although Dems will pay a bigger p.r. price in this case), but symbols of Washington corruption and the incredible entitlement that comes with it. That's what the country is upset about, and it shouldn't be confused with racism just because the accused happened to be black."
Is the Race Card 'Maxed Out'? Comedian Jon Stewart and the Daily Show's "senior black correspondent" Larry Wilmore share a laugh about the Rangel-Waters predicament:
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This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.