Monday, November 8, 2010

More shady money shows up in Rep. Maxine Waters' account

A lobbyist known as one of California's most successful power brokers while serving as a legislative leader in that state paid Rep. Maxine Waters' husband $15,000 in consulting fees at a time she was co-sponsoring legislation that would help save the real-estate finance business of one of the lobbyist's best-paying clients, records show.

Ms. Waters' husband, Sidney Williams, a former pro football player and ambassador to the Bahamas, was a paid consultant on a Los Angeles lobbying project for Mike Roos, who served with Ms. Waters in the California State Assembly. During Mr. Roos' 14-year tenure, he held the posts of majority floor leader and speaker pro tempore.

In 2007, Mr. Roos expanded his successful California lobbying business to Washington, D.C., after Democrats took control of the House and Ms. Waters became chairman of the House Financial Services housing and community opportunity subcommittee, where she played a key role in housing legislation.

Mr. Roos sought her assistance for a California client that specialized in homeownership and asset development.

According to federal lobbying records, Mr. Roos was paid $430,000 by the Nehemiah Corp. of America, a Sacramento, Calif.-based nonprofit that acted as a middleman to help sellers finance down payments for homebuyers to qualify for mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). He lobbied members of Congress and federal agencies on behalf of the firm.

One of those lobbied was Ms. Waters, a California Democrat and key Nehemiah ally, who held a hearing on down-payment assistance in June 2007 and persuaded federal housing officials to delay for 30 days efforts to impose a ban on the program. She also co-sponsored legislation in 2008 and 2009 that would have kept Nehemiah's assistance program viable.

Nehemiah was the largest middleman on such deals nationwide, with more than a third of the business, passing on $1.5 billion from sellers to more than 320,000 homebuyers in a decade.

Ms. Waters denied any connection between Mr. Roos' payment to her husband and her help with Mr. Roos' client, Nehemiah.

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