The Waters Outside Counsel and the September 9, 2008 Treasury Meeting (Part 2)

Now let us turn to one of the two key issues in the Waters ethics case: whether Representative Waters violated any ethics rules when she called Treasury Secretary Paulson to arrange the September 9 meeting.

Outside Counsel’s ability to analyze this question is compromised by its unwillingness to confront the reality of what happened at the September 9 meeting, as described in my last post. Outside Counsel treats the matter as if NBA (the minority bank trade association) had approached Waters and asked her to set up a routine agency meeting on an issue that widely affected its membership. Based on that framing of the issue, Outside Counsel concludes that there was nothing inappropriate (or even questionable) about Waters’ actions.

Unfortunately, this is not what happened. Waters was not approached by NBA professional staff, or by a group of minority banks, but by two senior officials of a single bank, OneUnited (in which her husband happened to own $350,000 worth of stock). Nor was she merely asked to set up a routine meeting, but to call the Treasury Secretary personally. This is obviously not an everyday constituent service (Waters stated in her OCE interview that “you don’t use your chits for nothing, you call when there is an important issue”) and Outside Counsel does not cite any evidence that Waters had ever arranged a similar meeting for anyone else.

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