Almanac A members-only database of searchable profiles compiled and adapted from the Almanac of American Politics

Biography

Elected: 1990, 13th term.

Born: August 15, 1938, St. Louis, MO

Home: Los Angeles

Education: CA State L.A., B.A. 1970

Professional Career: Head Start teacher, 1966; Dpty., City Councilman David Cunningham, 1973–76.

Ethnicity: Black/African American

Religion: Christian

Family: married (Sidney Williams) , 2 children

Maxine Waters, a Democrat first elected in 1990, has been known mainly for her incendiary rhetoric and a protracted ethics controversy involving her husband. Having survived that investigation, in December 2012, she became the ranking Democrat on the Financial Services Committee, where she predictably sometimes clashes with  the panel’s conservative chairman, Jeb Hensarling of Texas.

Waters grew up in St. Louis, one of 13 children. She has said, “I know all about welfare. I remember the social workers peeking in the refrigerator and under the beds.” She moved to California in 1961, worked in a garment factory, and raised two children. Waters got a sociology degree at California State University in Los Angeles and became an assistant Head Start teacher after the Watts riot of 1965. She likes to call herself “The Organizer” and has shown the capacity to draw big supportive crowds to her protests over the years. From 1973 to 1976, she worked on the staff of a Los Angeles city councilman. In 1976, she won a seat in the California Assembly, where she helped pass legislation divesting state pension funds from apartheid South Africa, setting up a child abuse prevention training program, and prohibiting police strip searches for nonviolent offenses. When Democratic Rep. Augustus Hawkins retired in 1990 after 28 years in the U.S. House, Waters was the obvious choice for the seat and won it easily. Her husband, a former professional football player and Mercedes-Benz salesman, became President Bill Clinton’s ambassador to the Bahamas.

Having grown up in poverty and under segregation laws, Waters believes with fervor in federal aid for the poor and for racial preferences to help blacks overcome years of slavery, segregation, and discrimination. She has favored drastic reductions in defense spending in favor of domestic spending. She voted against the Gulf War resolution in 1991 and was a staunch opponent of the Iraq war as well as a subsequent troop buildup in Afghanistan. She brings an intensity bordering on fury to her work, asserting herself regardless of protocol. Her anger is a political weapon she uses shrewdly to get both publicity and results. “I don’t have time to be polite,” Waters says.

She came to Washington shortly before the 1992 race riots in L.A., which occasioned her best and worst moments. She flew home immediately and roused the Department of Water and Power to restore water to the riot area, and she was effective in gaining provisions to the post-riot emergency act that were eventually signed into law. But she also suggested rioters were morally justified and claimed ominously, “Los Angeles is under siege. .… The violence could spill over to many other cities in this country.”

Waters isn’t afraid to step on toes. When House Appropriations Chairman David Obey of Wisconsin sought to ban spending earmarks named after members in 2009, she heatedly confronted him over his refusal to fund her request for the Maxine Waters Employment Preparation Center. Obey eventually prevailed. She has pushed for federal loan guarantees to cities for economic and infrastructure development. In a rare legislative success in the Republican-controlled House, Waters sponsored an amendment to triple spending for the erasure of the debts of poor nations, mostly in Africa. She has sponsored bills to repeal mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes, and charges that the war on drugs has created “apartheid” in the U.S. In 2009, the House passed her bill to require the federal Bureau of Prisons to develop a program for inmate HIV/AIDS testing.

She has been an occasional thorn in the side of President Barack Obama. She and other Congressional Black Caucus members held up a vote on the financial services overhaul in November 2009 because they said the administration wasn’t addressing the needs of segments of the black community. Waters repeatedly discussed the need to “educate” people advising Obama. Waters garnered attention in August 2011 for expressing frustration with Obama at a jobs fair in Atlanta. She warned about growing disillusionment within minority communities over the unemployment rate, and she encouraged Obama to fight harder when negotiating with the GOP on budget matters and the economy. “The Congressional Black Caucus loves the president, too. We’re supportive of the president, but we’re getting tired,” she said. “The unemployment is unconscionable. We don’t know what the strategy is.” Waters endorsed Hillary Rodham Clinton over Obama during the heated 2008 Democratic presidential primary.

On the Financial Services Committee, she sponsored measures to overhaul discredited housing finance programs, expand affordable housing programs, and aid local governments to rehabilitate foreclosed homes. She harshly criticized the Federal Reserve Board and big bankers for their financing practices and the tight credit that resulted. She told a panel of banking executives in 2009, “To the captains of the universe sitting here before all of us, all of my political life I have been in disagreement with the banking industry.” With then-Rep. Ron Klein, D-Fla., she got a bill through the committee in 2010 to crack down on fraudulent brokers and lenders, and she successfully amended the financial services bill in 2009 to beef up protection for securities investors. After the 2012 elections, Waters was named ranking member of the committee, giving her a larger platform to push her pro-regulatory, pro-consumer agenda.

In recent years, Waters’ personal finances have become the target of watchdogs. In 2005, the liberal-leaning Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics criticized the fact that members of her family had made more than $1 million in eight years doing business with companies, candidates, and causes that she had helped in her official capacity. Her reply: “They do their business and I do mine.” In March 2009, news stories raised the issue of whether Waters had urged federal regulators to give favorable treatment to a bank in which she and her husband had a financial interest. Federal regulators told The New York Times that Waters in 2008 helped set up a meeting with bankers, including one whose chief executive asked them for $50 million in government bailout funds. Waters defended her actions, saying, “I have been an outspoken advocate for minority communities and businesses in California and nationally for decades.”

The House Ethics Committee launched an investigation in 2009 and subsequently charged her with three counts of breaking House rules barring lawmakers from taking actions in their own financial interest. Hoping to seize political advantage, Republicans clamored to have ethics trials of Waters and Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., held before the November 2010 elections and accused ethics Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., of stalling. While Rangel’s case went forward, Waters’ trial was postponed when Lofgren and Alabama’s Jo Bonner, the committee’s ranking Republican, cited the discovery of additional evidence. Waters contended that the delay proved the case against her was weak. “I have been denied basic due process,” she told reporters.

Meanwhile, it came to light that two ethics committee lawyers on the case were placed on administrative leave. The highly secretive panel did not disclose the reason. Reports surfaced that the ethics investigation was derailed over partisan infighting among committee members and staff about the conduct of the probe. A high-profile Washington lawyer, Billy Martin, was brought in as an outside counsel to review the integrity of the committee’s probe and decide whether the investigation into Waters should proceed. Martin eventually ruled that Waters’ due process was not violated, and the committee resumed its investigation in June 2012. In response, Waters and 68 other Democrats asked the committee to release the Martin report, but the committee refused to make any of the documents public. In September 2012, the committee finally concluded its work and announced that Waters would not be charged with violating House ethics rules.

Waters is a force to be reckoned with in L.A. politics and she has been reelected without difficulty. The rising Hispanic percentage in her district was seen as the biggest threat to her tenure. However, in 2012 she ran in a redrawn 43rd District that is 46% Latino, while her old district was 55% Hispanic. But her new district also has fewer African-Americans and more whites. Still, barring a serious primary challenger, she shouldn’t have much trouble keeping this seat.

Office Contact Information

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 225-2201

(202) 225-7854

RHOB- Rayburn House Office Building Room 2221
Washington, DC 20515-0543

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 225-2201

(202) 225-7854

RHOB- Rayburn House Office Building Room 2221
Washington, DC 20515-0543

DISTRICT OFFICE

(323) 757-8900

(323) 757-9506

10124 South Broadway Suite One
Los Angeles, CA 90003-4353

DISTRICT OFFICE

(323) 757-8900

(323) 757-9506

10124 South Broadway Suite One
Los Angeles, CA 90003-4353

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

1044 West 82nd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90044

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

1044 West 82nd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90044

Staff

Sort by: Interest Name Title

Abortion

Alex Uriarte
Legislative Assistant

Agriculture

Kathleen Sengstock
Senior Legislative Assistant

Appropriations

Kathleen Sengstock
Senior Legislative Assistant

Budget

Kathleen Sengstock
Senior Legislative Assistant

Campaign

Alex Uriarte
Legislative Assistant

Crime

Deanne Millison
Shared Employee

Education

Alex Uriarte
Legislative Assistant

Energy

Kathleen Sengstock
Senior Legislative Assistant

Environment

Kathleen Sengstock
Senior Legislative Assistant

Finance

Deanne Millison
Shared Employee

Foreign

Kathleen Sengstock
Senior Legislative Assistant

Health

Kathleen Sengstock
Senior Legislative Assistant

Homeland Security

Alex Uriarte
Legislative Assistant

Human Rights

Alex Uriarte
Legislative Assistant

Immigration

Alex Uriarte
Legislative Assistant

Judiciary

Alex Uriarte
Legislative Assistant

Labor

Deanne Millison
Shared Employee

Medicare

Kathleen Sengstock
Senior Legislative Assistant

Military

Alex Uriarte
Legislative Assistant

Minorities

Deanne Millison
Shared Employee

Small Business

Alex Uriarte
Legislative Assistant

Social Security

Kathleen Sengstock
Senior Legislative Assistant

Tax

Alex Uriarte
Legislative Assistant

Telecommunications

Alex Uriarte
Legislative Assistant

Trade

Kathleen Sengstock
Senior Legislative Assistant

Transportation

Kathleen Sengstock
Senior Legislative Assistant

Veterans

Alex Uriarte
Legislative Assistant

Women

Alex Uriarte
Legislative Assistant

Committees

FINANCIAL SERVICES

Election Results

2012 GENERAL
Maxine Waters
Votes: 143,123
Percent: 71.24%
Bob Flores
Votes: 57,771
Percent: 28.76%
2012 PRIMARY
Maxine Waters
Votes: 36,062
Percent: 65.42%
Bob Flores
Votes: 19,061
Percent: 34.58%
2010 GENERAL
Maxine Waters
Votes: 98,131
Percent: 79.33%
K. Bruce Brown
Votes: 25,561
Percent: 20.66%
2010 PRIMARY
Maxine Waters
Votes: 32,946
Percent: 100.0%
2008 GENERAL
Maxine Waters
Votes: 150,778
Percent: 82.58%
Ted Hayes
Votes: 24,169
Percent: 13.24%
2008 PRIMARY
Maxine Waters
Votes: 36,685
Percent: 100.0%
Prior Winning Percentages
2010 (79%), 2008 (83%), 2006 (84%), 2004 (81%), 2002 (78%), 2000 (87%), 1998 (89%), 1996 (86%), 1994 (78%), 1992 (83%), 1990 (79%)

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