In a press conference with reporters this morning, California Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters laid out her defense against three charges leveled at her by the House ethics committee. Waters has been accused of arranging a 2008 meeting between Treasury officials and executives from OneUnited Bank, in which her husband was a large shareholder. The bank later received $12 million in TARP aid.
Waters, like fellow Democratic Rep. Charlie Rangel, denies the charges and has requested a public trial before the ethics committee. Since a trial has yet to be scheduled, she gave a press conference this morning in order to lay out her defense.
Speaking quickly and precisely, Waters explained the chronology and details of the 2008 meetings. She stressed that she organized a meeting between Sec. Henry Paulson and a trade association that represented a large number of banks, not just OneUnited:
The question at this point should not be why I called Sec. 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.
She claimed that once she realized that OneUnited was in a tough spot, she reached out to Rep. Barney Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee -- which was involved in shaping the use of TARP funds -- in order to distance herself from her husband's interests in the bank.