US & Canada

Democrat Maxine Waters accused of ethics violations

Image caption A panel of House members will decide whether Maxine Waters violated ethics rule

A Democratic member of the US House of Representatives has been charged with violating ethics rules, the second to be cited in five days.

Maxine Waters of California is accused of using her influence to seek government aid to a bank of which her husband was formerly a board member.

Last week, Charles Rangel of New York was charged with ethics violations. Both he and Ms Waters deny wrongdoing.

Analysts say the cases may hurt the Democrats in November's elections.

Ms Waters is a senior member of the House Financial Services Committee.

In a report, the Office of Congressional Ethics, an outside body, found that in 2008 amid the banking crisis that swept the US and led to widespread bank failures, Ms Waters arranged a meeting between Treasury Department officials and representatives of the National Bankers Association.

House control threatened

At the meeting, they discussed only a single bank, OneUnited. Ms Waters' husband had previously been a board member of the bank and was a stockholder.

According to a 2008 disclosure form, her husband's investments in OneUnited totaled between $500,000 and $1m.

She will now face a panel of House members who will decide if she violated ethical rules.

In a statement, Ms Waters said: "I simply will not be forced to admit to something I did not do and instead have chosen to respond to charges made by the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct in a public hearing."

The Democratic Party took control of the House in the 2006 election in part by portraying the Republicans as dogged by corruption.

Its control of the House is under threat, as polls indicate voters are unhappy with the Democratic Party amid continuing economic hard times.

Last week, Representative Charlie Rangel, a senior Democrat and powerful former chairman of the House Ways and Means committee, was charged with 13 ethical violations.

Among those, he was accused of using official House letterhead and other resources to solicit donations for a public policy programme named in his honour at New York's City College.

Mr Rangel was also accused of failing to disclose rental income and stock holdings, and of using rent-stabilised apartments in his district in New York City's high-priced rental market for office space instead of a residence, as required.

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