The New York times ran an enlightening front page story this morning (“Congresswoman, Tied to Bank, Helped Seek Funds”) about how Representative Maxine Waters used her position to set up meetings with Treasury officials for a local bank, UnitedOne, in which she and her husband held stock and her husband formerly served on the board of directors.
Representative Waters asked Treasury Secretary Paulson in the Fall and set up a meeting for UnitedOne with Treasury officials in September. At that meeting, Treasury officials were apparently shocked when UnitedOne’s CEO, Kevin Cohee, took the session, which was supposed to be about minority owned banks in general, to plead for special assistance for his bank: “They wanted money – cash. That is why they were here. It was very, very explicit,” said a former Treasury aide who attended the meeting but asked to remain anonymous.
Representative Waters set up another meeting in December and UnitedOne was one of the first minority owned banks to receive TARP funds, getting $12 million in December.
In October of 2008, The FDIC ordered the bank to stop paying for a Porsche and $6.4 million beachfront home in Pacific Palisades, CA for Chief Executive Cohee.
Representative Waters’s relationship with UnitedOne extends back to 2002 when she apparently influenced the acquisition of local bank Family Savings away from a “major white bank out of Illinois” and to UnitedOne. “It’s very helpful if you have a community based transaction to have the real or implied support of Maxine,” said Wayne-Kent Bradshaw, the former President of Family Savings, who preferred the initial deal.
When you hear all this talk about “earmarks” in the spending bill, this is what they’re talking about. If you think politicians are public spirited, fair minded, arbiters of the public interest, please wake up. They’re taking your cash and directing it towards projects that benefit their friends, supporters and constituents and rationalizing it in the name of the economy as a whole.