Senate Republicans Block Mel Watt FHFA Nomination; White House to Try Again

mel-watt-congressional-photoNorth Carolina Democratic Congressman Melvin Watt has a dream job: running a federal agency that controls around $5 trillion in financial assets. For now, he’ll have to keep dreaming about it. On October 31, the Senate, by a 57-41 margin, fell three votes shy of the 60 votes needed to invoke cloture (i.e., end debate) over President Obama’s nomination of Watt as director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which for over five years has been conservator for mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Republicans, with two exceptions, voted to filibuster, believing he wasn’t qualified to run the agency. Yet the main problem with Watt is less his qualifications than his view that FHFA should be a permanent agency, and one with favoritism toward nonwhites. The upside of the vote: Edward DeMarco will remain in charge of the agency for at least a little longer.

National Legal and Policy …

Watchdogs Agree: Waters Case Shows Ethics Process is Broken

Maxine Waters photoCarol Leonnig of the Washington Post writes today that the House Ethics Committee is planning to spend $500,000 for an investigation of Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), and the Committee’s own staff.

Last month, the Committee announced the hiring of Billy Martin to review the actions of the Committee’s staff that were cited as a reason to push the Waters trial beyond last November’s elections. Martin would then proceed to investigate the Waters matter if he determines that the staff’s previous conduct was not sufficiently prejudicial to dismiss the case, as she has requested.

As Leonnig reports:

Ethics watchdogs from both ends of the political spectrum praised the hiring of outside counsel, but they said the move makes clear that Congress is failing to properly police its own and sorely needs a new process.

“If there’s one thing to learn from all this it’s that the ethics system is not

Maxine Waters Asks for Dismissal as Ethics Committee Hires Outside Counsel

Waters photoOn Monday, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) asked the House Ethics Committee to dismiss the pending case against her. In the meantime, the Ethics Committee announced that it has hired an outside counsel to pursue the case.

John Bresnahan reported on documents obtained by the Politico that Waters’ attorney, Stanley Brand, say compromise the case. Late last year, former chief counsel of the Ethics Committee, Blake Chisam, advised then-Committee Chair Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) that two lead attorneys in the case, Morgan Kim and Stacy Sovereign, provided confidential materials to Republicans on the Ethics Committee.

Kim and Sovereign counterclaimed that Chisam withheld evidence against Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) in an effort to protect Democrats. When questioned during the Rangel case, Chisam claimed, “I see no evidence of corruption.”

Waters’ case was put on hold last year when Lofgren suspended Kim and Sovereign from their jobs. They have both left employment by the …

We Were Right About Maxine Waters’ Trial Delay

Maxine Waters photoNancy Pelosi was quick to refer the Anthony Weiner scandal to the House Ethics Committee. Yet other more substantial matters, like the Maxine Waters trial, have languished for months.

In 2008, Waters, D-Calif., arranged a meeting with the U.S. Department of Treasury and OneUnited Bank. OneUnited claimed it was in dire need of federal cash as a result of its failed Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae investments. The Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) provided $12 million to the bank.

Following OneUnited’s bailout, regulators ordered the bank to hire a new independent board and raise its own capital. The struggling bank was also forced to stop paying for the president’s $6.4 million Malibu home and Porsche.

The representative’s ties to OneUnited were public prior to the incident, and she had outlined her involvement with the bank in multiple federal disclosure forms. The bank’s executives contributed $12,500 to Waters’s congressional campaigns. 

Waters’s …

Republicans on Ethics Committee Accuse Lofgren of ‘Stalling’ on Rangel, Waters Trials

Jo Bonner photoIn recent days, we have complained about the apparent delay of the House ethics trials of Reps. Charles Rangel (D-NY) and Maxine Waters (D-CA) until after the election. We also wondered aloud about why the Republicans on the Ethics Committee were letting it happen.

Today, Rep. Jo Bonner (R-AL), the Committee’s ranking Republican, said Democrats were “stalling” and accused Committee Chair Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) of having “repeatedly refused to set either the Rangel or Waters trial before the November election.”

Bonner’s statement was unusually blunt and was signed by all five Republican members of the Committee.  It may have been prompted by the suggestion by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) on Sunday talk shows that Bonner was in agreement with the delay, which tonight’s statement calls “inaccurate.”

Lofgren is Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s handpicked Chairwoman. If Pelosi is as serious about ethics as she claims, she should instruct Lofgren to schedule …

Ethics Chair Lofgren Can’t Find Time for Rangel Trial But Brings Colbert Comedy Show to Capitol Hill

Lofgren photoRep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) is Chair of the House Ethics Committee, which is supposed to be conducting a trial of Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) on the 13 violations of House rules the Committee alleged on July 29.  There is also supposed to be a trial of Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA).

Instead, Lofgren played host on Friday to comedian Stephen Colbert who testified “in character” on the plight of migrant farm workers before a Judiciary Committee subcommittee that Lofgren also chairs. I thought Colbert was actually pretty funny but other reviews were mixed.

The episode did confirm the Ethics Committee’s reputation as a joke. With corruption fueling anti-Congress sentiment, you would think that the Committee would be meeting around the clock to demonstrate that Pelosi’s pledge to “drain the swamp” is real. When Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) were asked earlier this year about the embarrassing ethics case involving …

Pelosi to Delay Rangel Ethics Trial Until After Election?

Rangel Pelosi photoSo much for draining the swamp. Several sources report that the House will not try Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) until after the November 2 elections. Rangel won the Democratic primary for his seat yesterday, barely achieving 50% of the vote against five challengers. During his House floor speech on August 10 when he was not attacking NLPC, Rangel pleaded for an expedited hearing on the 13 charges leveled against him by the Ethics Committee. This followed months of maneuvering by Rangel to delay the investigation.

Earlier this year when Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer were asked about the high profile ethics cases against Rangel and others, they claimed that the probes were evidence of the Democrats’ commitment to ethics. If the cases of Rangel and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) are put off to spare the Democrats political damage just before the election, this claim will be proven to be …

Rep. Maxine Waters Says Ethics Office is ‘Sloppy’

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), charged with violating House ethics rules, said today on ABC’s Good Morning America that the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) is “not very tight, they don’t do very good work, rather sloppy work.”

Waters is accused of seeking federal funds to bail out a bank in which her husband was a stockholder.  She has denied breaking House rules.

OCE should not be confused with the House Ethics Committee. OCE was established in 2008 in recognition of how poorly the Ethics Committee does its job. Comprised of former members of Congress, it is slightly more independent of the House leadership.

The new office was already under attack from members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC). Rep. Marcia L. Fudge (D-OH) introduced legislation at the end of May, co-sponsored by 19 other CBC members, to severely curtail the ability of the new office to investigate members of Congress.…

FBN: Flaherty Assails Racial Mandates in Financial Regulatory Overhaul

I was interviewed by David Asman on the Fox Business Network on Wednesday, July 21. The topic is the racial mandates contained in the Dodd-Frank financial services regulatory overhaul. Here’s a transcript:

David Asman: The financial regulation Bill is now law and while we know that the twenty three hundred page document is full of new bureaucracies and regulations you may not know there is actually language in this law that requires racial profiling. Peter Flaherty is President of National Legal and Policy Center an ethics watchdog based in Washington. He has done some digging into this Bill. Peter, you know, I couldn’t believe it when I first heard it – I mean this is an Administration that prides themselves on being anti-racial. They are against racial profiling that doesn’t exist, for example in the Arizona immigration law. Get this: lenders will – these new data collection system that …

House Passes Financial Services Bill; Mandates Racial Favoritism

Maxine Waters photoSupporters call it “financial services reform.” Yet one has to wonder what the Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2010 is reforming or stabilizing. The House on Wednesday by a 237-192 margin passed the 2,300-plus-page conference bill designed to protect American households from predatory practices by banks, subprime lenders, brokerage houses and other intermediaries. But evidence suggests that if it becomes law, the bill instead will lay the groundwork for another major federal bailout. During House-Senate conference sessions, affirmative action zealots inserted a host of mandates to promote credit allocation by race. Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., and Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., the prime sponsors of this “comprehensive” bill, have refused to entertain legitimate objections. If the Senate approves the measure – Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has vowed to corral the necessary filibuster-breaking 60 votes in a matter of days – Congress once more will have shown that it places a higher priority on …

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