It’s not just Rangel — Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., to be tried on ethics charges 

Here’s your Friday night news dump — move over Charlie Rangel:

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) has chosen to go through an ethics trial, like the one lined up for New York Rep. Charles Rangel, rather than accepting charges made by an ethics subcommittee, a source familiar with the process tells POLITICO.

The back-to-back trials of a pair of black lawmakers represent an unprecedented use of an ethics adjudication system that has rarely been used by House members accused of breaking House rules.

Waters’ case revolves around allegations that she improperly intervened with federal regulators to help a bank that her husband owned stock in and on whose board he once served.

The Politico piece also notes that Waters’ decision to stand trial might have something to do with accusations of racism being hurled at the House ethics committee, given that Waters and Rangel are both African American:

The Waters case also presents a test of the Office of Congressional Ethics, an independent body that takes complaints from the public and chooses which ones to forward to the House ethics committee.

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus have complained that the OCE has unfairly and disproportionately targeted them, and many have signed onto a legislative effort to de-fang the office.

Waters’ case was referred to the ethics committee by OCE.

If Waters does plan to cry racism, it’s hard to say how receptive the public will be to that message. Even The New York Times ran lengthy piece in February suggesting that the Congressional Black Caucus is a hotbed of privilege and corruption.

Further, the Politico piece doesn’t really spell out what the charges against Waters are in detail, but this old Wall Street Journal piece does:

When Rep. Barney Frank was looking to aid a Boston-based lender last fall, the Massachusetts Democrat urged Maxine Waters, a colleague on the House Financial Services Committee, to “stay out of it,” he says.

The reason: Ms. Waters, a longtime congresswoman from California, had close ties to the minority-owned institution, OneUnited Bank.

Ms. Waters and her husband have both held financial stakes in the bank. Until recently, her husband was a director. At the same time, Ms. Waters has publicly boosted OneUnited’s executives and criticized its government regulators during congressional hearings. Last fall, she helped secure the bank a meeting with Treasury officials.

Suffice to say, OneUnited later ended up with a federal bailout despite some serious allegations of misconduct by the bank executives:

In October, regulators demanded that OneUnited raise fresh capital and name an independent board. The bank was ordered to stop paying for a Porsche used by one of its executives and its chairman’s $6.4 million beachfront home in Pacific Palisades, Calif., a luxury enclave between Malibu and Santa Monica.

Waters’ defiant stance could result in yet another high-profile ethics scandal that House Democrats would rather not see happen in an election year.

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Mark Hemingway

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