Maxine Waters
Maxine Waters
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 35th district
Assumed office
January 3, 1993
Preceded by Jerry Lewis
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 29th district
In office
January 3, 1991 – January 3, 1993
Preceded by Augustus F. Hawkins
Succeeded by Henry Waxman
Member of the
California State Assembly
In office
Personal details
Born August 15, 1938 (1938-08-15) (age 73)
Saint Louis, Missouri, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Sid Williams
Residence Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Alma mater California State University, Los Angeles
Occupation Politician
Religion Non-denominational Protestantism

Maxine Waters (born Maxine Moore Carr; August 15, 1938) is the U.S. Representative for California's 35th congressional district, and previously the 29th district, serving since 1991. She is a member of the Democratic Party.

She is the most senior of the 12 black women currently serving in the United States Congress, and is a member and former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. Before Congress she served in the California Assembly, where she was first elected in 1976.

As an Assembly member Waters advocated for divestment from South Africa's apartheid regime. In Congress she has long been an outspoken opponent of the Iraq War.

Waters was charged by the House's subcommittee on ethics with violations of the House's ethics rules in 2010.[1][2][3][4] An ethics trial she was expected to face in the fall of 2010[4] was successfully impeded by House Democrats, most notably Rep. Zoe Lofgren, chair of the House Ethics Committee. [5]


Early life, education and career

The fifth out of thirteen children, Waters was born 1938 in Kinloch, Missouri,[6] to Remus and Velma Lee Carr Moore. She graduated from Vashon High School in St. Louis, and moved with her family to Los Angeles, California, in 1961. She worked in a garment factory and as a telephone operator before being hired as an assistant teacher with the Head Start program at Watts in 1966.

She later enrolled at Los Angeles State College (now California State University, Los Angeles), and graduated with a sociology degree in 1970. In 1973, she went to work as chief deputy to City Councilman David S. Cunningham, Jr..

California State Assembly

Waters entered the California State Assembly in 1976. While in the assembly she worked for divestment of state pension funds from any businesses active in South Africa, a country then operating under the policy of apartheid and helped pass legislation within the guidelines of the divestment campaign's Sullivan Principles.[7] She ascended to the position of Democratic Caucus Chair for the Assembly.[8]

U.S. House of Representatives

Committee assignments

Caucus memberships

Upon the retirement of Augustus F. Hawkins in 1990, Waters was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives for California's 29th congressional district with over 79% of the popular vote. She has been re-elected consistently with at least 70% of the popular vote in the California's 35th congressional district after significant parts of the pre-1990 29th California Congressional District were folded into the newly defined 35th California Congressional District when California gained seven additional seats in the House following the 1990 United States Census.

Waters represented a large part of south-central Los Angeles in Congress and gained national attention in 1992 "when she helped deliver relief supplies in Watts and demanded the resumption of vital services"[9] as the area "caught the nation's attention" with the Rodney King verdict, and the Los Angeles riots of 1992 that followed.[10] Waters described the riots as a rebellion, saying "If you call it a riot it sounds like it was just a bunch of crazy people who went out and did bad things for no reason. I maintain it was somewhat understandable, if not acceptable."[11]

On July 29, 1994 Waters was challenged for making inappropriate remarks during a one-minute speech. She then ignored the Chair’s request to suspend speaking until the point of order was settled. Rep. Robert Walker (R-PA) rose and called out “get the Mace,” to restore order. The Chair kept pounding the gavel and finally stated, “the Chair is about to direct the Sgt-at-Arms to present the Mace!” Waters then suspended, and the Chair was able to rule on the point of order without having to resort to the Mace.[12][13] She was chair of the Congressional Black Caucus from 1997-98.

In 2006 Waters was involved in the debate over King Drew Medical Center. She criticized media coverage of the hospital and in 2006 Waters asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to deny a waiver of the crossownership ban, and hence license renewal for KTLA-TV, a station The Los Angeles Times owned. She said that "The Los Angeles Times has had an inordinate effect on public opinion and has used it to harm the local community in specific instances." She requested that the FCC force the paper to either sell its station or risk losing that station's broadcast rights.[14] According to Broadcasting & Cable, the challenges raised "the specter of costly legal battles to defend station holdings.... At a minimum, defending against one would cost tens of thousands of dollars in lawyers' fees and probably delay license renewal about three months."[15] Waters' petition was ultimately unsuccessful; the station's license next expires in 2014.[16]

As a Democratic representative in Congress, Waters was a superdelegate to the 2008 Democratic National Convention. She endorsed Democratic Senator Hillary Clinton for the party's nomination in late January 2008, granting the New York Senator nationally-recognized support that some suggested would "make big waves."[17][18] Waters later switched her endorsement to Sen. Barack Obama when his lead in the pledged delegate count became insurmountable on the final day of primary voting.[19][20]

Waters had a confrontation over an earmark in the United States House Committee on Appropriations with fellow Democratic congressman Dave Obey in 2009. The funding request was for a public school employment training center in Los Angeles that was named after her.[21]

In 2010 Waters came under investigation for ethics violations and was accused by a House panel of at least one ethics violation related to her efforts to help OneUnited Bank, where her husband had been a director and in which he had stock holdings, receive federal aid. She said she planned to fight the charges in a trial.[22]

Political positions

Waters' political rhetoric is often see as demagogic. In 2001, she called Richard Riordan, L.A. mayor, a "plantation owner." During the L.A. riots in 1992, Waters desribed the violence as a "spontaneous reaction to injustice." She held "economic, social, cultural, and political" factors responsible and that the L.A. riots should rightly be called a "rebellion" or "insurrection." [23]

Waters co-sponsored Rep. John Conyers' bill calling for reparations for slavery to be paid to black Americans.[24]

Government Spending

In September 2011, Waters called for the implementation of a federal "jobs program of a trillion dollars or more." "We’ve got to put Americans to work," she said. "That’s the only way to revitalize this economy. When people work they earn money, they spend that money, and that’s what gets the economy up and going."


Waters opposed the 2004 coup d'état in Haiti and criticized U.S. involvement.[25] Following the coup, Waters led a delegation to the Central African Republic along with TransAfrica Forum founder Randall Robinson and Jamaican member of parliament Sharon Hay-Webster to meet with Aristide and bring him to Jamaica, where he would remain until May.[26][27][28]

CIA and cocaine

Following a 1996 San Jose Mercury article alleging the complicity of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the Los Angeles crack epidemic of the 1980s, Waters called for an investigation. Waters questioned whether "U.S.-government paid or organized operatives smuggled, transported and sold it to American citizens."[29] The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) announced it had failed to find any evidence to support the original story.[30] The Los Angeles Times also concluded after its own extensive investigation that the allegations were not supported by evidence.[31] The author of the original story was eventually transferred to a different beat and removed from investigative reporting.[32] Following these post-publication investigations, Waters read into the Congressional Record a memorandum of understanding in which former President Ronald Reagan's CIA director rejected any duty by the CIA to report illegal narcotics trafficking to the Department of Justice.[33][34] Undeterred, Waters told the Los Angeles Times in 1997: "It doesn't matter whether the CIA delivered the kilo of cocaine themselves or turned their back on it to let somebody else do it. They're guilty just the same."

Iraq War

Waters voted against the Iraq War Resolution, the 2002 resolution that funded and granted Congressional approval to possible military action against the regime of Saddam Hussein.[35] She has remained a consistent critic of the subsequent war and has supported an immediate troop withdrawal from Iraq, although since the election of President Obama, along with most of the rest of anti-war (anti-Bush) crowd, she has generally refrained from talking negatively about US involvement in Iraq. Waters asserted in 2007 that President George W. Bush was trying to "set [Congress] up" by continually requesting funds for an "occupation" that is "draining" the country of capital, soldier's lives, and other resources. In particular, she argued that the very economic resources being "wasted" in Iraq were those that might provide universal health care or fully fund President Bush's own "No Child Left Behind" education bill. Additionally, Waters, representing a congressional district whose median income falls far below the national average, argued that patriotism alone had not been the sole driving force for those U.S. service personnel serving in Iraq. Rather, "many of them needed jobs, they needed resources, they needed money, so they're there."[36] In a subsequent floor speech, Waters told her colleagues that Congress, lacking the votes to override the "inevitable Bush veto on any Iraq-related legislation," needed to "better [challenge] the administration's false rhetoric about the Iraq war" and "educate our constituents [about] the connection between the problems in Pakistan, Turkey, and Iran with the problems we have created in Iraq."[37] A few months prior to these speeches Waters became a cosponsor of the House resolution to impeach Vice President Dick Cheney for making allegedly "false statements" about the war.[38]

International lending

In August 2008, Waters introduced HR 6796, or the "Stop Very Unscrupulous Loan Transfers from Underprivileged countries from Rich Exploitive Funds Act," also known as the Stop VULTURE Funds Act. This would limit the ability of investors in sovereign debt to use U.S. courts to enforce those instruments against a defaulting country. The bill died in committee.[39]

Mandatory minimum sentences

Waters opposes mandatory minimum sentences.[40]

Criticism of the Tea Party Movement

Waters has been very criticial of the Tea Party Movement. On August 20, 2011 while at a town hall discussing some of the displeasure that supporters of President Obama have had with the Congressional Black Caucus not supporting the president Waters stated, "This is a tough game. You can’t be intimidated. You can’t be frightened. And as far as I’m concerned, the ‘tea party’ can go straight to Hell . . . and I intend to help them get there." [41][42]

Allegations of corruption

According to Chuck Neubauer and Ted Rohrlich writing in the LA Times in 2004, Maxine Waters' relatives had made more than $1 million during the preceding eight years by doing business with companies, candidates and causes that Waters had helped. They claimed she and her husband helped a company get government bond business, and her daughter Karen Waters and son Edward Waters have profited from her connections. Waters replied that "They do their business and I do mine."[43]

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) named Waters to its list of corrupt members of Congress in its 2005, 2006 and 2009 reports.[44] Citizens Against Government Waste named her the June 2009 Porker of the Month due to her intention to obtain an earmark for the Maxine Waters Employment Preparation Center.[45]

Involvement with OneUnited Bank

Waters' husband is a stockholder and former director of OneUnited Bank and the bank's executives were major contributors to her campaigns. In September 2008, Waters arranged meetings between U.S. Treasury Department officials and OneUnited Bank, so that the bank could plead for federal cash. It had been heavily invested in Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, and its capital was "all but wiped out" after the U.S. government took them over. The bank received $12 million in Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) money.[46][47] The matter is currently being investigated by the House Ethics Committee.[48]

Personal life

Waters resides in the Hancock Park area of Los Angeles, which is approximately six miles west of downtown. Her second husband, Sid Williams, played professional football in the NFL[49] and is a former U.S. Ambassador to the Bahamas under the Clinton Administration.

Other achievements

  • Maxine Waters Preparation Center in Watts, California – named after her while she was a member of the California Assembly
  • Co-founder of Black Women’s Forum
  • Founder of Project Build
  • Received the Bruce F. Vento Award from the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty for her work on behalf of homeless persons.


  1. ^ Lipton, Eric (July 31, 2010). "Ethics Inquiry on Waters Is Tied to OneUnited Bank". The New York Times. 
  2. ^ "Maxine Waters defends herself publicly on ethics charges". The Washington Post. 
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ a b Lipton, Eric (July 30, 2010). "Ethics Trial Expected for California Congresswoman". The New York Times. 
  5. ^ Smith, R. Jeffrey; Leonnig, Carol D. (December 17, 2010). "Infighting cited in breakdown of Waters ethics probe". The Washington Post. 
  6. ^ "Next up for House Ethics trial: St. Louis native Maxine Waters". stltoday. November 19, 2010. Retrieved 02/04/2011. 
  7. ^ French, Howard W. (February 9, 1987). "SLASH TIES, APARTHEID FOES URGE". New York Times: p. D1. Retrieved 2009-03-13. "Maxine Waters, a member of the California Assembly who helped frame her state's pension fund divestment bill, has promised to work overtime to insure that our legislation reflects these guidelines and continues to target any and all U.S. companies that are doing business in or with South Africa." 
  8. ^ "About Congresswoman Maxine Waters : Representing the 35th District of California". Retrieved 2009-03-13. "During 14 years in the California State Assembly, she rose to the powerful position of Democratic Caucus Chair. She was responsible for some of the boldest legislation California has ever seen: the largest divestment of state pension funds from South Africa; landmark affirmative action legislation; the nation’s first statewide Child Abuse Prevention Training Program; the prohibition of police strip searches for nonviolent misdemeanors; and the introduction of the nation’s first plant closure law." [dead link] (Congressman's official web site)
  9. ^ Louise Donahue Rep. Maxine Waters to speak at annual MLK Convocation on February 20 January 15, 2007 Currents (UC Santa Cruz)
  10. ^
  11. ^ Pandey, Swati (April 29, 2007). "Was it a 'riot,' a 'disturbance' or a 'rebellion'?". Los Angeles Times.,1,3907230.story. Retrieved May 12, 2010. 
  12. ^ Staff Mens News Daily [2] Rep. Maxine Waters Charged with Ethics Violations;Tuesday, August 3, 2010
  13. ^ Hawthorne, California; C-SPAN [3] What is the staff with an eagle on top they keep moving around in the House? What is it used for? 5/3/00
  14. ^ Waters, Maxine (November 1, 2006). "Petition to Deny Request for Renewal of Broadcast License". Retrieved 2009-03-13. "Tribune influenced public opinion in the Los Angeles DMA to harm its residents and one of its most critical public health facilities – the Martin Luther King/Drew Medical Center (King/Drew)." 
  15. ^ McConnell, Bill (September 19, 2004). "Your Money or Your License". Broadcasting & Cable. Retrieved 2009-03-13. 
  16. ^ "Station Search Details". Federal Communications Commission. Retrieved 2009-03-13. "Call Sign: KTLA ... Channel: 5 ... Lic Expir: 12/01/2014" 
  17. ^ "The endorsements that would make huge waves". The Hill (newspaper). 12/06/07. Retrieved 009-03-13. "Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.). The outspoken anti-war liberal, who campaigned for Ned Lamont (D) over Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) last year, has not picked a favorite." 
  18. ^ Bombardieri, Marcella (January 29, 2008). "Maxine Waters for Clinton – 2008 Presidential Campaign Blog – Political Intelligence". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2009-03-14. 
  19. ^ California 2008 presidential primary and superdelegates – Congresspedia
  20. ^ Bosman, Julie (June 3, 2008). "The Superdelegate Tally". The New York Times. Retrieved May 12, 2010. 
  21. ^ Allen, Jared; Mike Soraghan (June 25, 2009). "Obey, Waters in noisy floor fight". The Hill. Retrieved 2009-06-26. 
  22. ^ Simon, Richard; Mascaro, Lisa (July 31, 2010). "Maxine Waters faces ethics charges". The Los Angeles Times.,0,6472045.story?track=rss. 
  23. ^ Aldore Collier, “Maxine Waters: Telling It Like It Is in L.A.,” Ebony (October 1992), p. 38.
  24. ^
  25. ^ "Aristide says U.S. deposed him in 'coup d'etat'". CNN. March 2, 2004. Retrieved May 6, 2010. 
  26. ^ "Defying Washington: Haiti's Aristide Returns to the Caribbean", Pacifica Radio, 2004-03-15,, retrieved 2011-07-01 
  27. ^ "Newsmaker profile - Sharon Hay Webster", Jamaica Gleaner, 2004-03-21,, retrieved 2011-07-01 
  28. ^ Aristide leaves Jamaica, heads for South Africa, 2004-05-30,, retrieved 2011-07-01 
  29. ^ Waters, Maxine (August 30, 1996). "Drugs". The Narco News Bulletin. Retrieved 2009-03-13. "What those articles traced, among other things, is the long-term relationship between Norwin Meneses, a Nicaraguan drug trafficker, Danilo Blandon, a Nicaraguan businessperson connected to the Contra rebels as well as a drug trader, and Ricky Ross, an American who worked with Blandon distributing crack cocaine in this country. These individuals represent a much broader and more troubling relationship between U.S. intelligence and security policy, drug smuggling, and the spread of crack cocaine into the United States. Letter to U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno" 
  30. ^ Cockburn, Alexander; Jeffrey St Clair (October 1, 1999). Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs and the Press. Verso. ISBN 1-85984-258-5. 
  31. ^ CIA-Contra-Crack Cocaine Controversy
  32. ^ "Are You Sure You Want to Ruin Your Career?"
  33. ^ Waters, Maxine (07 May 1998). "Casey". Congressional Record?. California State University Northridge. pp. H2970–H2978. Archived from the original on Sep 10, 2004. Retrieved 2009-03-14. 
  34. ^ Casey
  35. ^ "Final Vote Results for Roll Call 455, H J RES 114 To Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq". Clerk of the United States House of Representatives. 10-Oct-2002. Retrieved 2009-03-14. 
  36. ^ [4]
  37. ^ [5]
  38. ^ Washington Times – Cheney ouster gains backers
  39. ^ (Gov Track)
  40. ^ Kenneth Meeks Back talk with Maxine Waters (Interview) Black Enterprise June 1, 2005
  41. ^ Jenkins, Sally (August 22, 2011). The Washington Post. 
  42. ^
  43. ^ Chuck Neubauer and Ted Rohrlich CAPITALIZING ON CLOUT; Los Angeles Times. Capitalizing on a Politician's Clout; The husband, daughter and son of Rep. Maxine Waters have business links to people the influential lawmaker has aided. Dec 19, 2004. Retrieved August 18, 2010.
  44. ^ Maxine Waters: charges highlight mixed ethics record; California Rep. Maxine Waters, a powerful 'liberal institution' in Congress, has raised ethics eyebrows in the past. August 3, 2010 Christian Science Monitor
  45. ^ "Rep. Maxine Waters is CAGW’s June Porker of the Month". Citizens Against Government Waste. April 2009. Retrieved 2009-07-11. [dead link]
  46. ^ Schmidt, Susan (March 12, 2009). "Waters Helped Bank Whose Stock She Once Owned". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2009-03-13. "Ms. Waters, who represents inner-city Los Angeles, hasn't made a secret of her family's financial interest in OneUnited. Referring to her family's investment, she said in 2007 during a congressional hearing that for African-Americans, "the test of your commitment to economic expansion and development and support for business is whether or not you put your money where your mouth is."" 
  47. ^ Lipton, Eric; Jim Rutenberg, Barclay Walsh (March 12, 2009). "Congresswoman, Tied to Bank, Helped Seek Funds". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-03-13. "Top federal regulators say they were taken aback when they learned that a California congresswoman who helped set up a meeting with bankers last year had family financial ties to a bank whose chief executive asked them for up to $50 million in special bailout funds." 
  48. ^ Margasak, Larry (September 16, 2009). "Ethics panel defers probe on Jesse Jackson Jr.". Associated Press. Retrieved 2009-09-16. 
  49. ^

External links

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Augustus F. Hawkins
United States Representative for the 29th District of California
Succeeded by
Henry Waxman
Preceded by
Jerry Lewis
United States Representative for the 35th District of California
Succeeded by
United States order of precedence
Preceded by
Collin Peterson
United States Representatives by seniority
Succeeded by
Sam Johnson

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