Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., is defended her role assisting minority-owned banks in the midst of the nation's financial meltdown and dismissed suggestions that she used her influence last year to steer government aid to a bank with ties to her husband.
"I had no influence on what Bush administration officials in the Treasury Department or other departments did," Waters said in a statement Friday.
"I maintain that my advocacy on behalf of ... minority and community banks is appropriate," she said.
Waters' activities came under scrutiny after former Treasury Department officials said she helped arrange a meeting between regulators and executives at OneUnited Bank last year without mentioning her husband's financial ties to the institution. Her husband, Sidney Williams, served on the bank's board until early last year and owned at least $250,000 in its stock.
OneUnited did not get the $50 million it requested, but it later received $12 million through the Troubled Asset Relief Program.
Former Treasury officials told The New York Times they should have been informed about her husband's involvement with the bank.
The congresswoman said the National Bankers Association, a trade group, requested the meeting.
"I followed up on the association's request by asking Treasury Secretary Paulson to schedule such a meeting, as did other members of Congress. ... I did not attend the meeting, and thus did not participate in the conversation," Waters said.
The decision to award the bank bailout funds was "based on the merits of the bank's request, not based on anything said at the September meeting and not based on political influence," she added.
OneUnited says it's the largest black-owned bank in the country with offices in Los Angeles, Boston and Miami.
Treasury Department spokesman Andrew Williams discounted Waters' role in the agency's decision.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.