AUGUST 26, 2010
Fresh from getting charged for steering federal funds to her husband’s failing bank, Congresswoman Maxine Waters is in hot water again for skirting federal elections rules with a shady fundraising gimmick that allows her to receive unlimited amounts of donations from certain contributors.
For years the veteran Democratic lawmaker from Los Angeles has perfected an unusual and downright scandalous fundraising tactic that helps her rake in hundreds of thousands of dollars in short periods of time, according to an analysis conducted by a group dedicated to making government transparent. Instead of raising most of her campaign funds from individuals and political action committees, Waters sells her endorsement to other politicians and political causes for as much as $45,000 a pop.
The endorsements appear in campaign literature sent out by Waters to her constituents. Typically, the mailers list the “approved” candidates or appropriate votes on ballot initiatives. According to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) this sort of endorsement selling is not considered a “contribution” under FEC laws though they exceed contribution limits. This allows Waters to blow off the bedrock principles of campaign rules that apply to candidates, according to the group that exposed the unscrupulous gambit this week.
In the 2010 cycle alone, Waters has already raised a big chunk of her campaign money—nearly $300,000—through these exempt mailers. Among those who recently purchased the congresswoman’s support are San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome ($45,000), a candidate for lieutenant governor, and California State Senator Gloria Romero ($25,000), who’s running for State Superintendant of Public Instruction.
San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris, a candidate for California Attorney General, paid $25,000 for Waters’ endorsement and U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, who’s in a tight race with Republican challenger Carly Fiorina to keep her seat, dished out $5,000. In all, Waters has sold her support to 46 ballot measures and candidates, including judges, city council members, city attorneys, insurance commissioner hopefuls and school board members. In most cases she received much more than the amount a political committee could legally contribute to a congressional campaign.
Not surprisingly, Waters had no comment when given the opportunity to explain her corrupt method of raising cash over the years. To keep the profits in the family, Waters gives her daughter’s firm (Progressive Connections) a cut of the money she gets from candidates that pay for her backing.
This news could not come at a worse time for the ten-term congresswoman who earlier this month got slapped with ethics charges for using her influence to steer $12 million in federal bailout funds to a failing bank (that subsequently got shut down by the government) in which she and her board member husband held shares. Waters has dismissed the charges as “sloppy work” by the House Ethics Committee.
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