LA Congresswoman Maxine Waters says she hasn’t violated House rules

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Kitty Felde/KPCC

Maxine Waters at a press conference on ethics charges, August 13, 2010

Congresswoman Maxine Waters came out swinging today in a meeting with reporters over ethics allegations, insisting that she did not violate House of Representatives ethics rules when she arranged a meeting between a minority-owned bank and Treasury officials two years ago.

The Los Angeles Democrat told reporters at the Capitol that the House ethics committee has no case. She said the meeting she requested with Treasury officials was on behalf of a trade association for minority-owned banks – not OneUnited, the bank in which her husband owned stock. And she touted her long career of speaking out for minority-owned businesses.

"This case is not just about me," said Waters. "This case is about access. It’s about access for those who are not heard by the decision makers, whether it’s having their questions answered or their concerns addressed."

The only bankers at the meeting with Treasury officials were OneUnited executives who also were officials with the minority banking association. Waters said when a trade association comes to Washington, D.C., they often don’t bring all of their people with them.

Waters said her call to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson during the financial meltdown two years ago was an effort to stand up for minority-owned businesses, something she said she's done throughout her 10 terms in Congress.

"The question at this point should not be why I called Secretary Paulson, but why I had to," said Waters. "The question at this point should be why a trade association representing over 100 minority banks could not get a meeting at the height of the crisis."

The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington dismissed the defense, saying Waters didn’t “defend the honor of her office with the same vigor she is now defending her reputation.”

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