Foreclosures Rise; Repossessions Set Record
Thursday, 16 Sep 2010 By: Joseph Pisani, CNBC News Associate
US foreclosure activity rose in August from the previous month, and banks and lenders took ownership from homeowners at a record pace, according to a new report released Thursday.
Bank repossessions, often the final step in the foreclosure process after a home fails to sell at auction, increased about 3 percent from the month before to 95,364, a record high. At the same time the number of properties that received default notices—the first step in the foreclosure process—decreased 1 percent from a month ago and fell 30 percent from a year ago, a sign that lenders are focusing on their backlog of foreclosure inventory before tackling new distressed loans, according to foreclosure listing website RealtyTrac, which released the report.
Overall, foreclosure fillings rose 4.18 percent in August from the previous month, and were down 5.48 percent from a year ago. In all, 338,836 properties were in the foreclosure process. One in 381 U.S. households received a foreclosure notice in August. (Foreclosure notices are defined as a default notice, auction sale notice or bank repossession.)
“There is a buildup in delinquent loans that are not in foreclosure,” said Rick Sharga, senior vice president of RealtyTrac, adding that banks and lenders are slowing the process to avoid a drop in home prices. “It’s a managed slowdown more than anything else,” he said. “The underlining conditions haven’t improved,” Sharga added, referring to high unemployment and falling home prices in certain markets.
The ten states with the highest foreclosure rates were little changed from the previous month, according to the RealtyTrac report. For the 44th straight month, Nevada had the highest foreclosure rate in the country with one in every 84 properties in the state getting a foreclosure notice. (Nevada also has the highest unemployment in the country.)
Florida ranked second with one in every 155 households receiving a notice, followed by Arizona (one in 165 households), California (one in 194 households) and Idaho (one in every 220 households.) (See the full list in our slideshow.)
Vermont had the lowest rate, with one in every 18,389 properties receiving a foreclosure notice.
The RealtyTrac report comes a day after the Mortgage Bankers Association reported that demand for home loans fell even though mortgage rates were at record lows. Also on Wednesday, real estate website Trulia.com reported that homeowners nationally slashed more than $29 billion from their asking prices in August, as they tried to lure buyers stalled by unemployment.
Longtime Democratic congressman from New York
Admirer of Fidel Castro and Communist Cuba
Commonly levies baseless charges of racism for political advantage
Helped to author the largest tax increase in American history
Was involved in income-tax scandal and real-estate corruption
Born in Harlem, New York in June 1930, Charles Rangel is a Democratic congressman who represents the 15th Congressional District of New York, located in upper Manhattan. He has served in the House of Representatives since 1971.
Rangel, who is black, has a long history of levying charges of racism against his political and ideological adversaries. For example, when the Republican-led Congress pushed for tax relief in 1994, Rangel denounced the plan as a form of modern-day racism. "It's not 'spic' or 'nigger' anymore," he raged. "[Instead,] they say, 'Let's cut taxes.'"
Similarly, when Republicans sought to reform a bloated and abused welfare system through budget cuts, Rangel remonstrated that the planned reforms were beneath even the standards of Nazi Germany: "Hitler wasn't even talking about doing these things," he insisted.
Racism is likewise Rangel's chosen explanation for the disproportionate number of blacks arrested for breaking drug laws, which he has condemned as "racist."
In 2001, while campaigning for Democratic mayoral candidate Fernando Ferrer in New York, Rangel suggested that racism would be to blame were the Hispanic Ferrer to lose to his white rivals in the party primary. Speaking before a Democratic audience, Rangel asked, "How do you feel our hurt when you go to apply for a job and you see three whites there and you know before the interview that you're not going to get it?"
When President George W. Bush announced a plan to partially privatize Social Security, Rangel charged that Republicans were seeking to shortchange "African American workers" by providing them with reduced benefits "based on their race."
Following the much-criticized federal response to Hurricane Katrina, a powerful storm that ravaged the Gulf coast in August 2005, Rangel attributed the delayed response to anti-black sentiment within the federal government: “If you're black in this country, and you're poor in this country, it's not an inconvenience -- it's a death sentence."
In the course of addressing the Congressional Black Caucus in September of 2005, Rangel, still exploiting the aftermath of Katrina, likened President Bush to Bull Connor, the Alabama police commissioner notorious for his racist opposition to the early civil-rights movement.
In May 2009, Rangel joined activist Al Sharpton in calling for a federal probe into a recent deadly shooting -- by a white New York City plainclothes police officer -- of a black plainclothes officer who was brandishing a weapon and chasing a criminal suspect on a Harlem street. Said Rangel: "If you become an officer and you have a pistol and you are of color, in or out of uniform, your chances of getting shot down by a police officer are a lot heavier than if you were not of color." The congressman again alluded to the shooting when a reporter asked him what President Barack Obama, who came to New York for a personal matter shortly after the incident, ought to do during his stay in the city. Rangel replied, “Make certain he doesn’t run around in East Harlem without identification.”
In February 2005, Rangel proclaimed that it was inappropriate for Americans to characterize groups like Hezbollah as "Islamic terrorists." "To call it Islamic terror is discriminating, it's bigoted, it is not the right thing to say," Rangel declared.
Rangel is an avowed admirer of the former Cuban President Fidel Castro. In April 1993, the congressman introduced legislation to repeal the Cuban Democracy Act of 1992, which ended U.S. assistance to the Castro government, and to lift the American embargo against Cuba. When Castro toured Harlem in October of 1995, Rangel greeted him with a bear hug at an event in a local church, where the congressman joined in a prolonged standing ovation for the visiting dictator.
Rangel is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus and the Progressive Caucus in the House of Representatives. For an overview of key votes he has cast during his legislative career, click here.
In January 2007 Rangel became chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, which writes the U.S. tax code. In October 2007, Rangel and this Committee unveiled a proposal for the single largest tax increase -- on all income strata -- in American history. Dubbed the “mother of all tax bills” by Rangel, the legislation not only contained $1.3 billion in new taxes, but it also called for the repeal of the major tax cuts that Congress had enacted in 2001 and 2003; all told, the bill would have resulted in a tax hike of $3.5 trillion.
In September 2008 the House Ethics Committee launched an investigation into Rangel's failure to report (and pay taxes on) $75,000 in rental income which he had earned from his beach property in the Dominican Republic. Moreover, Rangel owed back taxes for at least three years, and he was illegally renting four rent-subsidized apartments in New York City -- at less than half of their market value -- while claiming his Washington, DC home as his primary residence for tax purposes. Though Rangel's income was too high to legally qualify him for any rent-subsidized units, he nonetheless rented three adjacent 16th-floor apartments which combined to make up his 2,500-square-foot home in New York, as well as a fourth unit on the 10th floor of the same building, which served as his campaign office. State and city laws stipulated, however, that rent-subsized apartments could only be used as primary residences.
In December 2008, reporters learned that Rangel had paid $80,000 in campaign funds to an Internet company run by his son for the creation of the congressman's Political Action Committee website.
In August 2009, Newsmax.com reported that Rangel had "failed to report at least $500,000 in assets on his 2007 Congressional disclosure form." Newsmax added:
"[A]mong the dozen newly disclosed holdings revealed in the amended forms are a checking account at a federal credit union with a balance between $250,0000 and $500,000; three vacant lots in Glassboro, N.J., valued at a total of $1,000 to $15,000; and stock in PepsiCo worth between $15,000 and $50,000. The new [disclosure] forms report that Rangel’s total net worth is between $1,028,024 and $2,495,000 — about twice the amount listed in the original disclosure statement, filed in May 2008, which declared assets totaling between $516,015 and $1,316,000."
Rangel was also accused of:
taking a $1 million contribution to the Rangel Center at City College from a wealthy businessman whose company sybsequently received a lucrative tax break; and
accepting a Citigroup-funded trip to the Caribbean in November 2008, when the bank was in the midst of squandering much of the bailout money it had received from the federal government.
When "Hot Air TV" producer Jason Mattera asked Rangel, on hidden camera, to comment about his continuing tax issues, the congressman replied angrily, "Why don't you mind your own goddamn business?"
On March 3, 2010, Rangel stepped down from his post as the Ways
and Means Committee chairman. The move, which Rangel said was "temporary," came after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told the congressman that he did not have enough votes to survive an expected Republican challenge to his chairmanship.
In April 2010, Rangel condemned Arizona's Republican governor, Jan Brewer, for having signed into law a bill deputizing state police to check with federal authorities on the immigration status of any individuals whom they had stopped for some legitimate reason, if the behavior or circumstances of those individuals led the officers to suspect that they might be in the United States illegally. Said Rangel: "The racism in this country is well known. Arizona has just pulled the sheets off of it."
On July 29, 2010, House investigators accused Rangel of 13 violations of congressional ethics standards, including, in addition to those listed above, such transgressions as:
use of congressional staff and stationery to raise money for the New York City college center named in his honor;
acceptance of favors and benefits from donors that may have influenced his votes in Congress; and
misuse of the congressional free mail privilege.
Said Rangel in response to the allegations: "Even though they are serious charges, I'm prepared to prove that the only thing I've ever had in my 50 years of public service is service. That's what I've done and if I've been overzealous providing that service, I can't make an excuse for the serious violations."
In 1980 the Democrat Frank ran for the U.S. House of Representatives in Massachusetts' 4th congressional district and won narrowly. In 1982 the 4th District was reconfigured geographically, and Frank won re-election by a full 20 percentage points. Since then, he has been re-elected every two years, by wide margins.
Upon joining the House of Representatives, Frank developed a reputation for consistently voting to slash funding for the CIA, the FBI, and the U.S. military. He also advocated the loosening of immigration-law exclusions that previously had served to prevent people holding totalitarian or anti-American ideologies from entering the country, and to facilitate the deportation of legal aliens who had caused unrest or engaged in subversive activities on American soil. Frank derisively categorized such exclusions as "relics of the McCarthy era" and as manifestations of "the anti-gay, anti-free-speech McCarthyite hangover." (In fact, ideological exclusions originated from the Alien Registration Act of 1940, signed into law by President Roosevelt as a national security measure on the eve of World War II.)
Aiming to eliminate ideological exclusions from American immigration policy, Frank crafted a comprehensive immigration-exclusion amendment which became temporary law in 1987, over the objections of the State Department. This amendment made it illegal for the government to prevent, on the basis of their beliefs alone, immigrants or other foreign nationals with radical views from entering the United States. It also became nearly impossible to deport them once they were in the U.S.
Three years later Congress passed the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1990, wherein Frank’s ideological-exclusions amendment remained intact except for a single word. The final amendment said that an alien could not be excluded from entry into the U.S., nor deported once there, "because of any past, current or expected beliefs, statements or associations which, if engaged in by a United States citizen in the United States, would be protected under the Constitution.” Frank had also wanted to prevent the U.S. from denying entry to immigrants based on past “activities,” but under pressure from the Bush State Department, he was forced to drop “activities” from the amendment’s final wording.
James R. Edwards of the Hudson Institute sums up the overall effect of Frank’s elimination of ideological exclusion from immigration policy: "History teaches that foreign ideologues have long sought to promote their beliefs and advance their causes on American soil. Alien subversives have spied, spread propaganda and stolen state and industrial secrets. Foreign anarchists, communists and other radicals have sought to make converts, raise funds, organize followers and otherwise exploit American freedoms.... In short, the 1990 Immigration Act’s revision of exclusion grounds ... made it much easier for aliens who hold radical, dangerous, anti-American or subversive political beliefs to enter and remain in the United States. This perversion of the First Amendment means the guy who preaches hatred, pollutes hearts and minds, steeps persuadable people in reasons to harm Americans and wage war from within against America ... gets a free pass."
In January 2000, while Frank was a member of the House Subcommittee on Immigration Claims, terrorism expert Steven Emerson appeared before that Subcommittee and gave detailed testimony about the threat posed by the many foreign Islamic radicals who were entering the U.S. each year.
After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks by Islamic radicals, the Patriot Act became law and Congressman Frank’s ideological exclusion amendment was effectively suspended; visa laws were significantly tightened and the enforcement of immigration laws was increased. Frank did not approve of these changes. “When 3,000 Americans were murdered by illegal immigrant terrorists on September 11,” he said, “that was the end of rational immigration policy in the United States.”
In 1987 Frank publicly announced that he was a homosexual. Three years later the House of Representatives, acting on the recommendation of the House Ethics Committee, voted by a 408-18 margin to reprimand the congressman for having "reflected discredit upon the House." At issue was the fact that Frank had paid for sex from a male prostitute named Steve Gobie, whom he subsequently hired as a personal "aide." Frank also had paid for Gobie's psychiatric treatments; had used his political influence to dismiss 33 parking tickets which the prostitute had been issued; and had written, on congressional stationery, letters on Gobie's behalf to Virginia probation officials. Gobie, for his part, had used Frank's Capitol Hill apartment as a house of prostitution for 18 months. The congressman later claimed that he had been unaware of Gobie's illegal activities inside the apartment, and that he had fired the aide upon learning of them.
Reflecting later on the nature of his relationship with Gobie, Frank characterized himself as an unwitting "good liberal" who had gotten "suckered" and "victimized" while "trying to help" the young sex worker. "Thinking I was going to be Henry Higgins and trying to turn him into Pygmalion was the biggest mistake I've made," Frank said at a news conference. In a 2004 retrospective discussion about the Gobie affair, Frank accused Republicans and conservative media outlets of "plotting to ruin my social life," and suggested that he, like the sex-scandal-plagued former President Bill Clinton, was fighting a "fundamental battle for the soul of America."
Congressman Frank and the Housing / Financial Crisis of 2008:
Barney Frank has had numerous close ties to the mortgage-lending giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, both of which suffered economic collapse in 2008 as a result of government policies mandating that they lower their lending standards in order to ensure that larger numbers of undercapitalized borrowers -- particularly nonwhite minorities -- were approved for mortgage loans (so-called "subprime loans"). Frank, who between 1989 and 2008 received campaign contributions totaling $42,350 from Fannie and Freddie, actively promoted these policies.
Starting in the early 1990s, Frank sought to stifle efforts by regulators, Congress, and the White House to place some oversight over Fannie and Freddie's risky lending practices. In 1991, when Frank was just beginning a seven-year personal relationship with Fannie Mae executive Herb Moses (who helped develop many of Fannie’s housing-related lending programs), the congressman pushed for reduced restrictions on two- and three-family home mortgages.
When Republican Congressman Jim Leach sought to impose stronger regulation on Fannie and Freddie in 1992, Frank worked to block the move. In 2000 Frank rejected yet another attempt to regulate the Fannie-Freddie loans, calling such regulation unnecessary because there was "no federal liability there whatsoever."
In 2001, White House chief economist N. Gregory Mankiw warned that the government's "implicit subsidy" of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, coupled with loans to unqualified borrowers, was placing the entire American financial system at great risk. Frank, who wielded immense influence as the ranking member of the House Committee on Financial Services (which oversees the housing and banking industries), denounced Mankiw and declared that he (Frank) had no "concern about housing."
Even after federal regulators discovered in 2003 that Fannie and Freddie executives had inflated their earnings statements by some $10.6 billion in order to boost their own bonuses, and after President Bush called for what the New York Times described as the housing-finance industry's "most significant regulatory overhaul" in a decade, Frank maintained: "Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are not facing any kind of financial crisis.... The more people exaggerate these problems, the more pressure there is on these companies, the less we will see in terms of affordable housing."
Also in 2003, Frank lauded Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for having "played a very useful role in helping make housing more affordable." Critics of their lending practices, he said, "exaggerate a threat of safety" and "conjure up the possibility of serious financial losses to the Treasury, which I do not see."
Because he saw no threat that financial calamity might result from the subprime loans that had become so commonplace in the mortgage industry, Frank pushed for Fannie and Freddie to make even greater numbers of those loans. "I believe that we, as the Federal Government," the congressman said, "have probably done too little rather than too much to push [Fannie and Freddie] to meet the goals of affordable housing and to set reasonable goals." "I would like to get Fannie and Freddie more deeply into low-income housing and possibly moving into something that is more explicitly a subsidy," said Frank. "... I want to roll the dice a little bit more in this situation towards subsidized housing." Moreover, Frank worried that critics of lower lending standards might create "pressure" to tighten the standards, which would, in turn, lead to "less ... affordable housing."
In 2004 Frank and 75 other House Democrats (including such notables as Nancy Pelosi, Maxine Waters, and Charles Rangel) took exception to George W. Bush's public expression of concern about the risky loans that Fannie Mae and and Freddie Mac were making. They sent the President a letter warning that "an exclusive focus on safety and soundness is likely to come, in practice, at the expense of affordable housing."
In June 2005, Frank said the following about his – and the House Financial Services Committee's – efforts to promote home-ownership for low-income people:
"Obviously, speculation is never a good thing. But those who argue now that housing prices are now at the point of a bubble seem to me to be missing a very important point. Unlike previous examples we have had, where substantial excessive inflation of prices later caused some problems, we are talking here about an entity, home ownership. Homes, where there is not the degree of leverage that we've seen elsewhere. This is not the dot-com situation, where you had problems when people invested in a business plan where there was no reality. People building fiber optic cable for which there was no need. Homes that are occupied may see ebb and flow of price at a certain percentage level, but you're not going to see the collapse that you see when people talk about a bubble. So those of us on our committee will continue to push for home ownership."
When the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, or OFHEO (the agency responsible for overseeing Fannie and Freddie), in 2004 issued a 211-page report condemning irregularities in Fannie Mae's accounting, Frank said: "It is clear that a leadership change at OFHEO is overdue."
In 2007 Frank became chairman of the House Financial Services Committee. That same year the mortgage crisis first began to manifest itself, resulting from the large number of defaults on the subprime loans which Frank had long advocated. Yet the congressman attributed the crisis not to the lending policies he had been espousing, but rather to the allegedly greedy practices of banks and inadequate regulatory oversight. "The subprime crisis," he said, "demonstrates the serious economic and social consequences that result from too little regulation." In 2008 Frank similarly blamed the crisis on "excessive deregulation" and "bad decisions that were made by people in the private sector thanks to a conservative philosophy that says the market knows best."
Frank has defended ACORN and other, likeminded activist groups that have spearheaded the movement demanding that underqualified minority borrowers be given access to subprime loans and lower eligibility standards. According to the congressman, these activist organizations are composed of "people who are trying very hard to preserve some equity and some social justice," and "people whose only crime was to offend powerful political interests because they cared about equity."
Frank approved of the massive government bailouts of the banking industry in 2008 and 2009, saying: "This is equivalent to what FDR had to do ... to save capitalism from its own excesses."
In 2008 Frank was asked how the U.S. government ought to address the nation's financial crisis. He replied:
"I think at this point there needs to be a focus on an immediate increase in spending, and I think this is a time when deficit fear has to take a second seat. I do think this is a time for a very important kind of dose of Keynesianism. Yes, I believe later on, there should be tax increases. Speaking personally, I think there are a lot of very rich people out there whom we can tax at a point down the road and recover some of this money."
In 2006 Frank was one of only three members of the House of Representatives to oppose the Respect for America's Fallen Heroes Act, which restricted political protests -- most notably those led by the anti-gay, anti-war activist Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church -- at U.S. soldiers' funerals. Frank opposed the bill, which the Senate passed unanimously, on civil liberties and constitutional grounds.
In 2008 Frank called for a 25 percent reduction in U.S. military spending. "The math is compelling," he wrote. "If we do not make reductions approximating 25 percent of the military budget starting fairly soon, it will be impossible to continue to fund an adequate level of domestic activity."
Frank is a member of the socialist-leaning Progressive Caucus in the House of Representatives.
'Communist Front' in the United States was the Progressive Party
Democratic Member of Congress
Member of the radical Progressive Caucus
Chief Deputy Minority Whip in the House of Representatives
Voted against the 1991 Gulf War after it began, and in March 2003, was one of 11 who voted against the resolution to support our troops after the Iraq War commenced
Has traveled to Cuba and has praised Marxist dictator Fidel Castro
Rationalized and justified the actions of the 1992 Los Angeles rioters
Maxine Waters is a Democratic Member of Congress who represents the 35th District of California. She was born in 1938 in St. Louis, Missouri, the fifth of thirteen children raised by a single mother in a home that was visited regularly by welfare and social workers.
Waters moved to Southern California in 1961, worked in a garment factory, raised two children and was employed for a year as a Head Start social worker following the 1965 Watts riots. In 1970 she earned a degree in sociology from California State University in Los Angeles.
Waters entered politics in 1973 as deputy to Los Angeles City Councilman David Cunningham. Three years later she ran successfully for a seat in the California Assembly, the lower house of the state legislature. She became a member of the Democratic National Committee in 1980 and helped design California's gerrymandered redistricting in 1982. In 1984 she was co-chair of Jesse Jackson's presidential campaign. When longtime Democratic Congressman Augustus Hawkins retired in 1990, Waters was anointed as his successor by Democratic Party bosses and easily won election. She has served in the U.S. House of Representatives ever since.
As a Member of Congress, Waters belongs to the Progressive Caucus and the Congressional Black Caucus, the latter of which she formerly headed. In June 2005 she co-founded and chaired the Out of Iraq Congressional Caucus (OICC), an entity dedicated to agitating for a swift withdrawal of U.S. troops from the Iraqi theater of war -- alleging that the American invasion in 2003 had been launched on a pretext of lies and deliberately manipulated intelligence. Waters’ fellow OICC co-founders included Lynn Woolsey, John Conyers, Charles Rangel, Barbara Lee, Jan Schakowsky, William Delahunt, and John R. Lewis.
Prior to every primary and final election, Waters publishes her own Progressive Connection mailer for her constituents; Democrat politicians eager for votes from her district pay Waters anywhere from $10,000 to $35,000 to be included in the slates of candidates her mailer endorses.
Waters’ political rhetoric is often demagogic. In 2001 she depicted the retiring moderate Republican Mayor of Los Angeles, Richard Riordan, as a "plantation owner." On another occasion, while addressing the allegedly pervasive problem of police brutality against African Americans, Waters said that she had never seen Los Angeles police officers abuse "little white boys."
During the Los Angeles riots in the wake of the infamous 1992 Rodney King trial, Waters described the violence (in which 58 people were killed) as "a spontaneous reaction to a lot of injustice." She held “economic, social, cultural and political” factors responsible for the disorder. She dismissed the mass black looting of Korean-owned stores by saying: "There were mothers who took this as an opportunity to take some milk, to take some bread, to take some shoes…. They are not crooks." Chanting the radical slogan "No justice, no peace," she attributed the rioters’ underlying rage to the federal government’s allegedly longstanding “neglect” of America’s inner cities.
Waters further asserted that racial injustice was rampant in America. She claimed that the L.A. tumult could rightly be called a “rebellion” or “insurrection,” but not a riot. “Riot implies to me wild, crazed, uncalled-for actions,” she explained, “and I’m not so sure that’s quite appropriate for what took place in Los Angeles.” It was “unfortunate,” she said, “that “it takes things like this rebellion to wake people up.”
Waters co-sponsored Rep. John Conyers' bill calling for reparations for slavery to be paid to African Americans.
Waters blames illicit drugs for the rampant crime that plagues her congressional district, and she has blamed the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) for the presence of those drugs. In the 1980s she accused the CIA of selling crack in black neighborhoods. However, the San Jose Mercury-News eventually retracted the story on which Waters had based her allegations for lack of evidence. 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."
Waters has traveled several times to Cuba, where she praised dictator Fidel Castro and called for an end to the U.S. trade embargo against the Castro government. In a letter to Castro (quoted during an October 2, 1998 newscast on Radio Havana), she wrote that Castro had a perfect right to grant "political asylum" to U.S. citizens fleeing "political persecution."
In 1999, when six-year-old Elian Gonzalez requested asylum in the U.S. after his mother had drowned during their escape from Cuba, Waters pressured President Bill Clinton to return the boy immediately to his homeland. During the controversy over the matter, Waters flew to Cuba and met with the boy's father and grandmothers, thereby giving political and propaganda support to Castro.
In 1998 Waters voted in favor of a measure calling on Castro to turn over (to U.S. authorities) a female fugitive named Assata Olugbala Shakur, who had received refugee status in Havana after escaping from a U.S. prison -- where she had been serving time for her role in the 1973 murder of a New Jersey state trooper. After having cast the aforementioned vote, Waters learned that Shakur was actually the former Black Panther Joanne Chesimard, who had taken a new name in the early 1970s. Once Waters was aware of the fugitive's actual identity, the congresswoman penned a letter of apology to Castro and urged the Cuban dictator to continue safeguarding the convicted killer -- because the latter been "persecuted for her civil-rights work" in the United States.
Organized labor is by far Waters’ biggest campaign contributor and has supplied more than two-thirds of her Political Action Committee (PAC) donations. Her largest labor support comes from the Laborers' International Union of North America and the Service Employees International Union. Other Waters campaign donors include the American Association for Justice (formerly known as the Association of Trial Lawyers of America) and Viacom, which owns CBS and many cable networks.
In August 2005 Waters threw her support behind Cindy Sheehan’s campaign to discredit President Bush and the Iraq War effort.
Also in 2005, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics (CREW) named Waters as one of the 13 "most corrupt" members of the U.S. Congress. The CREW report cited a December 2004 Los Angeles Times investigation disclosing how a number of 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. Waters declined to be interviewed about this matter, saying only that her family members “do their business, and I do mine.”
In a May 2008 congressional hearing on gasoline prices, Shell Oil President John Hofmeister stated: “I can guarantee to the American people because of the inaction of the United States Congress, ever-increasing prices, unless the demand comes down, and that $5 [per gallon] will look like a very low price in the years to come if we are prohibited from finding new [oil] reserves, new opportunities to increase supplies.” Waters replied: “And guess what this liberal will be all about? This liberal will be about socializing – would be about, basically, taking over, and the government running all of your companies.”
During the national financial crisis that struck in the autumn of 2008, Waters was lobbied by representatives of OneUnited Bank, a black-owned depository institution that was seeking a federal government bailout after having squandered almost $52 million of its bank capital on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac preferred stock. These lobbyists were longtime friends, donors, and fundraisers of Rep. Waters.
Meanwhile, Waters' husband had a long history as an investor in one of the banks that had previously merged into OneUnited; he had once served on OneUnited's board of directors; and he owned large amounts of stock in OneUnited. In fact, both he and Rep. Waters had owned six-figure sums of OneUnited stock at various times during the preceding six years.
In response to OneUnited's lobbying, Rep. Waters intervened to arrange a meeting where representatives of the bank could plead their case to then-Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and 20 of his subordinates. As a result of that meeting, Paulson et al secretly engineered a special federal rescue of the floundering bank. This bailout cost American taxpayers $12 million in TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) cash.
On August 2, 2010, the House Ethics Committee filed three charges against Waters, alleging that she had used her influence to gain special favors (from the federal government) for OneUnited.
Following is an overview of Waters’ congressional voting record over the course of her political career, as per key pieces of legislation covering a wide array of issues.
In October 1991 Waters voted in favor of a proposal to replace the death penalty with a life imprisonment sentence in certain federal cases. In April 1994 she voted in favor of substituting life imprisonment for the death penalty in all cases.
Also in April 1994, she voted against a bill requiring a mandatory life sentence in prison for anyone convicted of three violent or drug-related felonies; reducing the age at which juveniles could be tried as adults for violent crimes; allocating $13.5 billion for the development and operation of prisons; and earmarking $3.45 billion to hire and train more police officers nationwide. In August 1994 she voted against another very similar bill.
Waters believes that the American justice system is thoroughly infested with racism and discrimination against nonwhite minorities. She has stated that “the color of your skin dictates whether you will be arrested or not, prosecuted harshly or less harshly, or receive a stiff sentence or gain probation or entry into treatment.” Further, she warns that by imprisoning a disproportionate number of black males, “we are risking an entire generation of African American young men because of an unjust justice system.”
In February 1995 and December 1995, Waters voted against a welfare-reform bill designed to move people off the welfare rolls and into paying jobs. This bill replaced the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program with block grants to states; it increased those grants after two years for states wherein the number of out-of-wedlock pregnancies had declined; it barred states from giving cash assistance to children of unmarried teenagers; it prohibited states from providing additional cash assistance to families that gave birth to additional children while on public assistance; it required states to limit their aid to five years per family; it denied assistance for ten years to any person who had fraudulently sought to obtain assistance in more than one state; it denied assistance to fugitive felons and parole and probation violators; and it denied assistance to alcoholics and drug addicts.
In September 2006 Waters voted against a bill authorizing the President to establish military commissions to try enemy combatants captured in the war on terror. In Waters’ view, such tribunals trample on the civil rights and liberties of defendants who, she contends, should be entitled to all the rights and protections afforded by the American criminal court system—where the standards that govern the admissibility of evidence are considerably stricter than the counterpart standards in military tribunals.
Counter-Terrorism & Homeland Security
In May 1991 Waters voted in favor of a proposal to terminate the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) program, which called for the development of a missile defense system.
In June 1991 she voted to cut $260 million in funding related to the development of the MX missile rail garrison.
In June 1992 she voted to decrease defense spending by 10 percent in the ensuing fiscal year. That same month, she voted to prohibit the production of any new B-2 aircraft by cutting $2.7 billion. In yet another June 1992 vote, she supported a $937.5 million funding cut for the SDI program (a 22 percent reduction).
In April 1996 she voted against a bill to increase the number of explosive-detection agents; to expand the deportation of criminal illegal aliens and suspected terrorists; to make it easier for the U.S. to deny asylum to suspected terrorists; and to bar terrorist organizations from fundraising in the United States.
In March 1999 she voted against a bill “to declare it to be the policy of the United States to deploy a national missile defense.”
In September 2001 she voted in favor of a joint resolution “to authorize the use of United States Armed Forces against those responsible for the recent [9/11] attacks launched against the United States.”
In October 2001 she voted against the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2001, which proposed to ease restrictions on government wiretap and surveillance operations; to permit government officials to share with one another the information they obtain from such surveillance operations; to strengthen security along the U.S./Canadian border; and to deny U.S. visas to suspected money-launderers.
Also in October 2001, she voted against the post-9/11 anti-terrorism measure known as the Patriot Act.
In July 2002 she voted against a bill permitting airline pilots to carry firearms for the purpose of defending the aircraft against acts of violence or terrorism.
In July 2005 she voted against reauthorizing the Patriot Act.
In September 2006 she voted against an amendment to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978; this amendment called for allowing the government to use electronic surveillance to investigate suspected terrorist operatives.
In August 2007 she voted against a bill permitting the Director of National Intelligence and the Attorney General to monitor foreign electronic communications which are routed through the United States—provided that the purpose of such monitoring was to obtain "foreign intelligence information" about suspected terrorists. In June 2008 she voted in favor of a bill specifically prohibiting this type of surveillance.
From 1998 to 2005, the Center for Security Policy, which is committed to "promoting international peace through American strength," gave Waters ratings that ranged from 8 percent to 12 percent.
In 2003-2004, the American Security Council, which "serves as educational secretariat of the Congressional Caucus on National Security," gave Waters a 10 percent rating.
Iraq War / War on Terror
In October 2002 Waters voted against a joint resolution to authorize the use of the U.S. Armed Forces against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.
In June 2006 she voted against a resolution which stated that it was not in America's national security interest to set an arbitrary date for the withdrawal of its troops from Iraq, and that a better course of action would be to withdraw the troops only upon the "completion of the mission to create a sovereign, free, secure and united Iraq."
In February 2007 she voted to disapprove of President Bush's decision to move ahead with the so-called troop "surge"—the deployment of some 21,500 additional U.S. soldiers in an effort to quell the violent insurgents in Iraq.
In July 2007 she voted to begin dramatically reducing the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq by April 1, 2008.
In July 1994 Waters voted against barring illegal aliens from receiving benefits and aid under the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA's) emergency food and shelter programs.
In March 1996 she cast no vote on a bill to prohibit illegal aliens from receiving public assistance.
In August 1996 she voted against a proposal “to declare English as the official language of the Government of the United States.”
In September 1996 she voted against a bill to increase border patrol personnel and to adopt other measures designed to stem the flow of illegal immigration into the U.S.
In May 2004 she voted "No" on requiring hospitals to report (to the federal government) illegal aliens who receive emergency medical treatment. That same month, she cast no vote on a separate proposal to deny public education to illegal aliens.
In February 2005 she voted against the Real ID Act, which proposed to: set minimal security requirements for state driver licenses and identification cards; require asylum applicants suspected of affiliating with terrorist groups to prove that they are indeed seeking to escape persecution in their homeland; and ensure that physical barriers to prevent illegal immigration would be expeditiously constructed where needed along the U.S.-Mexico border.
In December 2005 she voted against a bill calling for: the construction of some 700 miles of fencing along America's southern border; the establishment of a system requiring business owners to verify the legal status of all their employees; the detention of any person attempting to enter the U.S. illegally after October 1, 2006; an increase in the penalties on anyone attempting to smuggle illegal aliens into the U.S.; the annual provision of $250 million to pay state and local police agencies for their assistance in enforcing federal immigration laws; and funding for a program to deport "removable criminal aliens" in prison following the completion of their sentences, rather than releasing them into American communities.
In September 2006 she again voted against a bill authorizing the construction of 700 miles of double-layered fencing between the U.S. and Mexico. That same month, she voted against a proposal to grant state and local officials the authority to investigate, identify, and arrest illegal immigrants.
The U.S. Border Control, which "is dedicated to ending illegal immigration by securing our nation's borders and reforming our immigration policies," gave Waters a rating of 0 percent in 2005-2006.
Abortion and the Rights of the Unborn
In November 1995, September 1996, March 1997, July 1998, April 2000, June 2003, and October 2003, Waters voted against legislation to ban the late-term abortion procedure commonly known as partial-birth abortion (a.k.a. "intact dilation and extraction"). According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, in the year 2000 this procedure was performed approximately 2,200 times in the United States.