Congresswoman Maxine Waters
Congressman Charles Rangel
There are 42 members of the Congressional Black Caucus and at least eight of them have been investigated in the last year for alleged ethics violations. That is over 20 percent–a staggering statistic.
By Yussuf J. Simmonds
Sentinel Managing Editor
Eight members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) have been investigated within the last year according to the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) and that number represents a staggering 20 percent of the CBC and almost ten percent of the House of Representatives. The most recent targets are the Honorable Maxine Waters (D-CA) and the Honorable Charles Rangel (D-NY). Both are two of the most highly respected members of the House with a combined record of over seven decades of unblemished public service.
In her district Congress-woman Waters is known to her constituents as “Maxine” and that alone says a lot. It goes to the core of the relationship between she and her constituents, and the quality of her representation. Whenever an elected official is constantly returned to office in the same district by the same voters, for over three decades-in Sacramento and in Washington, D.C.-it tells an abundance of the kind of representation she provides. A major part of that service is accessibility. On any given day, while she is in her district, Congresswoman Waters can be found walking through neighborhoods, visiting and speaking to her constituents and/or attending rallies and function that are relevant to their needs.
In 1990, when Congress-woman Waters was first elected, she received over 79 percent of the popular vote; since that time, she has been re-elected each time with at least 70 percent of the popular vote. Both Waters’ and Rangel’s consistent appeal to their constituents has been due to the perception of them as champions of justice for the poor and disadvantaged not only in South Los Angeles and Harlem but around the nation and indeed around world, in places like the Caribbean and sub-Sahara, particularly in Haiti and South Africa.
Since last year the Congresswoman has been under investigation for doing what she does best: provide service and opportunities for minorities and women, and for seeing that the nation’s largest minority bank shared in the stimulus funds. Notwithstanding, there is only one Black bank in the nation with branches on the East Coast and the West Coast-One United Bank. And Congresswoman Waters was doing her sworn duty in promoting equal opportunity for her grossly underserved community.
Congresswoman Waters has issued a public statement challenging the investigation and refuting the alleged violation stating forcefully that for the service that she provided her community, she has received “No benefit;” there was “no improper action, no failure to disclose, and no one influenced: no case.”
Furthermore, the Congress-woman has vehemently denied the allegations and is standing firm to clear her name and reputation, and the community stands with her. Her statement continued: “I have not violated any House rules. Therefore, I simply will not be forced to admit to something I did not do and instead have chosen to respond to charges made by the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct in a public hearing._ _Starting with the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) report released today, the record will clearly show that in advocating on behalf of minority banks neither my office nor I benefited in any way, engaged in improper action or influenced anyone. Additionally, the OCE acknowledges that I have fully disclosed my assets as required by House rules, even going above and beyond the requirements by disclosing my assets at several Financial Services Committee hearings. In sum, the case against me has no merit.”
(The chairman of the largest Black bank in Los Angeles said that during the massive government bailout of the banks, his bank only received $9 million, hardly enough to re-pave his parking lot). That kind of disparity is what Congresswoman Waters has spent her entire career seeking to remedy for communities and people of color.
Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-9), chairwoman of the CBC and a colleague of Congressw-oman Waters, who has known her for a number of years and is familiar with the passion and dedication she exhibits serving her constituents, issued the following statement: “The House of Representatives has a long-standing and well established ethics process, which should be allowed to proceed without prejudging the outcome. Although the alleged charges remain unclear, some in the media have sought to indict Congresswoman Waters in clear disregard of her right to a fair and due process. Throughout her tenure in Congress, and in the California State Legislature before that, Congresswoman Waters has been a tireless and effective advocate for underrepresented and underserved communities and institutions. She continues to be an important voice on those and many other issues and should not have her rights usurped by politicians or the press.”
Former pastor of the First AME church and now a professor of Religion at USC, Rev. Cecil “Chip” Murray is a man, who has worked directly with the Congresswoman. He said, “She is a person of integrity with strong moral values and character. Congresswoman Waters has always been steadfast in her efforts to help those in need and provide quality service to the community. Those of us who have worked with her over the years have grown to love and respect her immensely, and we all stand with her in her time of need for without her to lead and guide us, the community will be poor in spirit and value. We trust her.”
In questioning the motives behind the alleged ethics violations charges against Congress-woman Waters, Dr. Mark Perrault, a Leimert Park psychiatrist rhetorically asked, “How many banks does her community have? Is she not supposed to help her community or should she let her husband’s business interfere with her service to her community? She is a fighter for her constituency and has been above board about this from the onset.”
“As a practicing attorney, I can remember Maxine Waters on the frontlines of everytime there was a case of police brutality,” said George H. McNeal, “I’ve always known her to stand up for justice for those who had no where else to turn. She is a fighter for the rights of others especially, the disenfranchised and under-served.”
Louise Crosby, a working mother of three and who resides in Congresswoman Waters’ 35th district remembered when she had a problem with the bank and wrote a letter to the congresswoman. Crosby said, “Maxine got on the phone with me and the bank, and made them do the right thing. Every time I see her in the community, she remembers that and always ask me if everything is all right. I shall never forget her for that. When I needed her, she was there for me and my children.”
In 2009, there was an article titled: RACIAL DISPARITY: ALL ACTIVE ETHICS PROBES FOCUS ON BLACK LAWMAKERS. The article further stated: “The House ethics committee is currently investigating seven African-American lawmakers-more than 15 percent of the total in the House. Not a single White lawmaker is currently the subject of a full-scale ethics committee probe.”
As Dr. Perrault said, “Maybe it’s a backlash because Obama has become president. So one way of eroding at that is by going after the Blacks who are in Congress.”