(FinalCall.com) – Word that Rep. Maxine Waters, the outspoken Democrat from California, will face an ethics committee hearing is troubling and raises fears about the targeting of Black lawmakers.
The Office of Congressional Ethics issued a report Aug. 1 and accusations of alleged ethics violations against Rep. Waters follow charges of misconduct lobbed at Rep. Charles Rangel of New York, who has also denied any wrongdoing. Both plan to fight the charges publically.
The Harlem Democrat is facing questions about fundraising, failure to publicly disclose income and assets, and failure to pay taxes on rental property in the Dominican Republic. The longtime congressman, who is facing reelection in November, has admitted making mistakes, but also says he is not corrupt. He did, however, step down as chair of the House Ways and Means committee, which deals with taxes and other financial matters, and is a prized, power seat.
Rep. Waters staunchly declared her innocence, saying though her husband had a financial stake in a Black bank, her efforts were tied to requests from the National Bankers Association, the trade group for Black-owned banks, to help get a hearing from the Treasury Dept.
In her Aug. 2 statement, Rep. Waters denied any wrongdoing. She said the ethics committee report and the record of her actions “will clearly show that in advocating on behalf of minority banks neither my office nor I benefited in any way, engaged in improper action or influenced anyone,” she added. “The accusations against me stem from work I have done throughout my decades of public service as an advocate for minority communities and businesses in California and nationally.”
The Black bankers, as the country was reeling from financial problems in 2008, requested a meeting with the Treasury Dept., and got one, which Rep. Waters said she did not attend. While the ethics committee raises concerns about alleged attempts to help the bank associated with her husband, Rep. Waters says it never happened and correspondence between the Treasury Dept and the National Bankers Association bear witness to that fact.
Apparently there have been plenty of pleas from Democrats for Rep. Rangel to resign and fears voiced that the Republicans–despite their own dismal history of corruption–will use the allegations to attract voters in November elections and possibly regain control of Congress.
With the toxic political atmosphere that prevails today, there is little likelihood that the GOP would not use charges of ethical lapses to appeal to voters. The fact that the accused lawmakers are Black and the president, who the right wing has portrayed as a Communist, a Socialist and a murderer, with their comparisons to Germany’s Adolph Hitler, helps to appeal to racial ill-will and racial fears.
The image of corrupt Black politicians is easy to sell to Whites, who opinion polls have shown believe Blacks are less intelligent, less trustworthy and less hard working than they are.
An April poll showed this year’s political prom queen, the Tea Party movement, whose members are already being hotly pursued, held more racist attitudes, according to Christopher Parker, of the University of Washington, who managed the survey.
Among survey respondents only 35 percent of Tea Party-type true believers agreed Blacks were hardworking; while 45 percent agreed Blacks are intelligent and 41 percent agreed Blacks were trustworthy. On all of these questions, Tea Party faithful had less favorable views of Blacks than Whites in the general population. What messages overt and covert are likely to be used to court these voters?
Negative views of Blacks are nothing new in this country. The racist and groundbreaking American film, “Birth of A Nation,” in 1915, which celebrated the rise of the Ku Klux Klan to save the South from the “darkies,” included images of corrupt and immoral Black politicians enriching themselves and fleecing hardworking and suffering White people.
But if anything, Black political leaders are over scrutinized and constantly under examination by watchdogs. Last November, the Internet-based news source Politico.com, noted back then that the House ethics committee was looking at seven Black members of Congress, “more than 15 percent of the total in the House.”
“A document leaked to The Washington Post last week showed that nearly three dozen lawmakers have come under scrutiny this year by either the House ethics committee or the Office of congressional Ethics, an independent watchdog created in 2008 at the insistence of (House Speaker Nancy) Pelosi. While the list contained a substantial number of white lawmakers, the ethics committee has not yet launched formal investigative subcommittees with respect to any of them–as it has with the seven African-Americans,” Politico noted.
Does the high number of Black lawmakers facing full throttle probes and the lack of White members prove racism? No. But it does fit a pattern of disparate treatment, greater suspicions, greater scrutiny and unequal application of rules and standards in an institution which is no stranger to scandal.
Whenever Black lawmakers seem to rise to powerful positions based on their tenure in Congress, something comes along that hurts their reputation, saps their power or leads to a resignation. Rep. Rangel came into office in the 1960s when legendary Black lawmaker Adam Clayton Powell was accused of ethical lapses.
All public servants should be just that, public servants–not self serving. But if the American people want to drain The Swamp, which is what some call the D.C. political scene, all the crooks need to be brought out and the rules need to be applied evenly.
At minimum, Black lawmakers deserve a fair hearing and the public should remember they are innocent until proven guilty–but that’s just the minimum. What is really needed is for Black America to pay close attention to the congressional ethics apparatus, what it does and how it works and ask why are so few Black congressmen, there are only 43 members, subjected to so much investigation? Rep. Rangel enjoys significant seniority, which translates into power in Congress, and Rep. Waters is one of the strongest and most outspoken political leaders in the country. Other Black lawmakers are facing scrutiny and with Blacks already underrepresented in Congress, we can’t afford to lose members or power that it took decades to acquire simply based on accusations.