Maxine Waters Under Fire Again for Shady Campaign Finance Practices – Is She Still Above the Law?

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

It must be nice to be a member of Rep. Maxine Waters’ family. In fact, it can be quite lucrative, given that the lawmaker can flout campaign finance laws with impunity. The fact that, despite having been under scrutiny on several occasions due to her shady practices, she still gets away with it could make one wonder why our legislators even bother putting on a show of caring about ethics.

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Waters is reportedly facing criticism from Republicans for continuing to give money from her campaign, directing thousands of dollars to her daughter, Karen Waters, for various services, as per campaign finance disclosures:

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) in the second quarter of 2023 continued her long-held practice of paying her daughter with funds from her campaign, which steered thousands of dollars to Karen Waters, campaign finance disclosures show.

The campaign for Maxine Waters has paid more than $1.2 million to Karen Waters since 2003 for slate-mailer operations and also items such as “administrative services,” “fundraising,” and “rally expenses,” the Washington Examiner reported. On April 27, Karen Waters was sent $8,000 combined from her mother’s committee, Citizens for Waters, for a “slate mailer management fee,” according to newly released disclosures.

The revelation that Waters has poured more cash into the pockets of Karen Waters comes amid scrutiny from the GOP and watchdog groups over politicians using their campaigns to support their family members. “Squad” Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) faced multiple ethics complaints earlier this year over her payments to Cortney Merritts, a security professional from St. Louis, Missouri, whom she married in February in a private wedding ceremony.

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The payments to family members by politicians have come under scrutiny from the GOP and watchdog groups. Though the practice is not necessarily illegal per se, it does raise ethical concerns. The Federal Elections Commission allows politicians to use campaign funds to pay family members as long as the rates are at “fair market value.”

Slate mailing, also known as slate mailers or voter guides, is a campaign strategy commonly used in certain states during elections. In slate mailing, consulting firms or political campaigns produce and distribute mailers or pamphlets to voters. These mailers typically contain a list of endorsed candidates, ballot measures, and recommendations for voters to support. The slate mailers aim to influence voters and make it easier for them to choose a group of candidates or issues aligned with the sender’s political interests.

Waters paid Karen over $88,000 for this service in 2022.

This is not the first time the lawmaker has faced scrutiny for corruption. The U.S. House of Representatives ethics panel formally charged Waters in 2010 with three counts of breaking House rules by assisting a bank in which her husband had a stake to obtain help from the federal government. The charges alleged that Waters violated rules against using improper influence for personal gain, accepting special favors, and conducting herself in a manner that reflects discreditably on the House. She was later cleared of the charges because of course she was.

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Waters is not the only lawmaker to behave unethically and get away with it. There is a long and storied history of this type of conduct among our public officials. Yet, they never face consequences because they are members of a ruling class that lives under a different justice system from the rest of us. Moreover, most of the population does not pay close attention to these matters, and they continue voting for these people. At some point, we have to wonder: Are we getting the leaders we deserve?

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