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Maxine Waters will go to trial rather than settling potential ethics charges

Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.) acknowledges that he has made mistakes but insists that he is not corrupt. The House voted Thursday to censure the congressman.

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By Ben Pershing and Paul Kane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 31, 2010

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) has decided against settling potential House ethics charges for her role in helping to steer federal funds to a bank, choosing instead to proceed to a trial, a source familiar with the process said Friday night.

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Waters's decision means that her case will be heard by an adjudicatory subcommittee of the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct. She will become the second high-profile Democrat -- and member of the Congressional Black Caucus -- to face such an ordeal in the coming months, along with Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.).

In that case, a House subcommittee has recommended that Rangel face only a "reprimand," a mild form of punishment similar to that given to Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) when he was rebuked in 1997.

Rep. Gene Green (D-Tex.) told reporters Friday that his four-member investigative subcommittee is not seeking the high-level punishments of censure or expulsion against Rangel, opting for a mid-level sanction that requires the approval of the full House but carries no other penalty.

"The recommendation we had was a reprimand," Green said a day after the subcommittee released the 40-page outline of charges.

Green would not discuss whether the subcommittee was unanimous in its recommendation, which required only a majority vote.

Waters's office declined Friday night to comment on her case, and the ethics panel has not issued any statements in the matter. Her decision was first reported by Politico.

Waters is facing scrutiny for her efforts to arrange meetings in 2008 between Treasury Department officials and minority-owned banks, including representatives from OneUnited Bank. One of the sessions was geared toward ensuring that the banks received a share of bailout funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program, and OneUnited got $12.1 million in TARP money soon after the second meeting.

Waters reportedly did not tell Treasury Department officials that she had personal and financial ties to OneUnited. Waters's husband, Sidney Williams, had served on the bank's board of directors and owned shares in the company worth at least $500,000. Waters herself had previously owned shares in the bank herself but sold them years earlier.

Waters has said that she was simply trying to help minority-owned institutions get their fair share from the government.

According to Republican counts, 10 House Democrats have called on Rangel to resign, nine of whom were elected for the first time in 2006 or 2008 and face difficult races as they seek reelection in November.

"It's been a long haul," said Rep. Zack Space (D-Ohio). "I think he should resign, out of concern for the institution and the particularity of the allegations."

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