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U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters has served California’s 43rd congressional district for going on 30 years; she was elected to her 15th term in November. She is also the first woman and first African American to chair the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services. It’s an appointment that’s drawn fire from detractors who are dusting off some old allegations against the congresswoman.
"In 2010, Maxine Waters steered $12 million in TARP funds to her husband’s private bank account. She was indicted but served no time," reads a May 6 Facebook post featuring a photo of Waters shrugging. "2019, she will become the committee chair of U.S. Finances that oversees banks."
This post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
In 2017, PolitiFact checked a similar claim about Waters that was circulating online. Bloggers then said that "California Democrat Maxine Waters charged on 3 counts." That got a Mostly False rating because it distorted the facts.
Here’s how that allegation and this Facebook post intersect.
In 2009, reports surfaced that Waters had allegedly helped the CEO of a bank called OneUnited secure a meeting to ask for $50 million in bailout funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program—or TARP—to help recover from the Great Recession. The bank ultimately got $12 million to help offset losses from investments in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times.
But those reports triggered a House ethics investigation and, in 2010, the House ethics committee charged Waters with breaking three rules by allegedly trying to assist OneUnited, a bank in which her husband held a sizeable stock share. Mikael Moore, Waters’ chief of staff, was also charged.
In 2012, the ethics charges against Waters were dropped. A lawyer hired by the committee to review the case found Waters thought she had been acting in the interest of all minority-owned banks, not just OneUnited. She had called for a meeting to help those banks and ended her involvement when she learned OneUnited was part of the group.
Moore was given a letter of reproval because the committee ruled "he should have known" about his boss’ ties to OneUnited and stopped helping the bank.
The Facebook post says Maxine Waters in 2010 steered $12 million in TARP funds to her husband’s private bank account. The post also says that she was indicted but served no time.
This is incorrect on several points.
First, OneUnited received $12 million in bailout funds, not Waters’ husband, though he did have a financial stake in the bank.
That conflict of interest led to a congressional investigation after Waters called then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson in 2008 (not 2012, as the Facebook post says) on behalf of minority-owned banks.
Facebook post, May 6, 2019
PolitiFact, "U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters charged with 3 ethics violations — back in 2010," Nov. 2, 2019
Los Angeles Times, "Maxine Waters accused of three ethics violations," Aug. 10, 2010
The Washington Post, "California Rep. Waters cleared of ethics charges," Sept. 21, 2012
Politico, "Waters ethics case debacle detailed," Sept. 25, 2012
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