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:
"Congressional financial-disclosure forms show Ms. Waters acquired OneUnited stock worth between $250,000 and $500,000 in March 2004, as did Mr. Williams. Mr. Williams joined the board of OneUnited that year.
"Each sold shares in September 2004 -- including Ms. Waters' entire stake -- but Mr. Williams continued to hold varying amount of the company's stock. In the lawmaker's most recent financial-disclosure form, dated May 2008 and covering the prior year, Ms. Waters reported that her husband held between $250,000 and $500,000 worth of the bank's stock.
"Mr. Williams also received interest payments from a separate holding at the bank, also worth between $250,000 and $500,000. The 2008 form doesn't specify what that is. Mr. Williams stepped down from the bank's board last spring. It couldn't be learned whether he still owns stock in the bank. Mr. Williams didn't return calls seeking comment."
Waters (along with Frank) participated directly in pressuring the feds for OneUnited's piece of the bailout pie. She personally contacted the Treasury Department last December requesting $50 million for the company -- and failed to disclose her ties to the bank to them. The government ended up coughing up $12 million in TARP funding for OneUnited -- despite another government agency rapping the bank in October 2008 for "operating without effective underwriting standards and practices," "operating without an effective loan documentation program" and "engaging in speculative investment practices."
Oh, and get this: The favored bank of Maxine Waters was also penalized for alleged excessive executive compensation. The FDIC ordered the bank to "sell all bank-owned automobiles," require reimbursement for executives' car purchases (according to the Boston Business Journal, OneUnited CEO Kevin Cohee was cruising around in a 2008 Porsche SUV), and cease payments on a $6 million Santa Monica beachfront home purchased by Cohee, his wife, Teri Williams, who served as bank president, and others.
Responding to scrutiny of the bank's special treatment, Cohee is now accusing critics of -- yep, you guessed it -- racism.
Now, who is sick of Democratic shakedown artists sanctimoniously lecturing others about the culture of corruption? Raise your hand! Raise your hand!