At a flail-and-wail House hearing last month, California Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters melted down in front of big banking CEOs. "Raise your hand! Raise your hand!" she shrieked as she harangued the executives on their business practices and management of federal bailout money. Sneering at the "captains of the universe," whom she refused to address by name ("You, Bank of America!"), Waters excoriated the corporate heads for their greed. "All of my political life," Waters bragged, "I have been in disagreement with the banking and mostly financial services community because of practices that I have believed to be not in the best interest always of the very people that they claim to serve."
As you'll soon see, however, the ethically conflicted Waters has her own special definition of what's in "the best interest" of the people she claims to serve. While she crusades against crony pseudo-capitalism, she is one of its most hypocritical beneficiaries and advocates. Cronyism comes in all colors. Waters has once again earned her title as one of the "Most Corrupt" members of Congress from the left-leaning (yes, left-leaning) Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).
The bank CEOs sat meekly during Waters' verbal flogging. But as she frothed at the mouth, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank covered the microphone and briefly chastised her. To no avail. Waters' motor mouth kept on running.
Did the banks raise interest rates on credit card customers after they took Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) money, she thundered. Thumping her fists on the table, she then railed about their loan modification policies. "How many require that you have to be behind by two months?" Blustering about underwriting fees they paid themselves on government-backed bond sales, she yelled, "You made money off the TARP money!" One of her fellow Democrats finally ended the diatribe: "I'm going to have to calm you down because when the chairman gets back he's going to have to penalize me."
Fast-forward a month later. The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that the high-and-mighty Waters had a personal and financial stake in Boston-based OneUnited, a minority bank that received $12 million in TARP money under smelly circumstances. The banks' executives donated $12,500 to her congressional campaigns. Her husband, Sidney Williams, was an investor in one of the banks that merged into OneUnited. They've profited handsomely from their relationship with the bank:
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