WASHINGTON — In her most spirited defense against ethics charges, Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., on Friday refused to wait quietly for her trial, denying that she used her influence to aid a bank in which her husband has a financial interest. She also attacked ethics investigators for drawing the wrong conclusions from what she said was her lifetime work of trying to aid minority-owned businesses in general.
"I won't cut a deal," Waters, 71, vowed in her first Capitol Hill news conference since charges were brought.
It featured a PowerPoint presentation led by her chief of staff, who is also her grandson, aimed at rebutting the charges. When it concluded, the words: "No Benefit, No Improper Action, No Failure To Disclose, No One Influenced: No Case" flashed on the screen.
The veteran lawmaker, who has served in Sacramento and Washington for more than three decades, has been accused of trying to help OneUnited Bank, on whose board her husband served and in which he owns stock.
In previewing the defense she is expected to present at a rare public trial before a panel of her House colleagues, Waters acknowledged that she called then-Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson during the financial crisis to set up a September 2008 meeting between his staff and representatives of minority-owned banks.
Three months later, OneUnited received $12 million in federal bailout funds.
But Waters said she set up the meeting strictly to better understand how the financial crisis was affecting minority-owned banks in general. "This is what I do," she said, citing "my life's work" in trying to promote minority-owned businesses.
"We are proud of our work. Our work has been consistent throughout the history of my career. We have committed no violations," she said.
The Office of Congressional Ethics has said the discussion at the meeting, however, "centered on a single bank — OneUnited."
The House Ethics Committee has accused Waters' chief of staff, Mikael Moore, of working to help OneUnited, even as Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, urged Waters to "stay out of it" because of her husband's ties to the bank.
Once she became aware that OneUnited was seeking federal help, Waters said, she bowed out.