Cross-posted by Gary Fouse
Representative Maxine Waters, (D-CA)
There are few people in Congress more odious than Maxine Waters (D-CA). A member of the Congressional Black Caucus, Waters, who represents a district on the outskirts of LA, specializes in racial politics. One of her favorite issues is racial profiling, yet she also paints herself as a drug warrior trying to protect the inner city from the scourge of drugs. In that vein, in 1996, she launched into an attack on the CIA based on allegations that the agency was facilitating the flow of cocaine into inner city neighborhoods. Yet, her "concern" about the drug problem is contradicted by her intervention in a DEA Houston drug investigation in 1999.
Following a 1996 article in the San Jose Mercury that alleged the complicity of the CIA in the crack epidemic of the 1980s in Los Angeles, Waters called for an investigation. The Justice Department was unable to find any evidence to support the allegations. Not satisfied, Waters dragged CIA Director John Deutch to a "town hall" forum in South Central Los Angeles to answer the charges in a hall full of hostile community members who verbally abused Deutch. (Security for Deutch was extremely heavy due to the volatile nature of the event.) Waters,having already convicted the CIA, stated at the time the following,
"I’m gonna make somebody pay for what they’ve done to my community and to my people."
Of course, the allegations proved groundless.
Waters' outrage about drug trafficking did not extend to DEA's Houston office in 1999when she learned that they were investigating a certain James Prince, the head of Rap-a-Lot Records in Houston's Fifth Ward. The years-long investigation was being conducted by the local task force composed of DEA and Houston PD drug investigators.
Prince contacted Waters in August of 1999 stating that he feared his life was in danger from DEA. He claimed that he and his associates had been followed, stopped and intimidated by DEA agents on numerous occasions. As a result, Waters, on August, 20, wrote a letter to Attorney General Janet Reno, a letter that was forwarded to DEA and on to the Houston Field Office. Waters' letter alleged racial profiling, racial slurs and harassment.
At this point it might be fair to ask why Prince chose to contact Waters, who represented a district in California as opposed to his own Texas representative. Answer? Well, it seems that Prince was a childhood friend of Waters' husband (Sidney Williams). That's why.
But I digress. After Houston Special Agent in Charge Ernest Howard received the letter, he informed the task force officers (DEA-Houston PD) that the investigation against Prince and his organization was being shut down. Subsequently, the lead DEA investigator, Jack Schumacher, was transferred to a desk job. An internal DEA (OPR) investigation was started into the agents' behavior which exonerated them. Not surprisingly, the agents and officers reacted with surprise followed by anger.
One of Prince's recording artists, Brad (Scarface) Jordan, subsequently cut a record, "Look me in my eyes", mocking DEA and claiming that they (Rap-a-Lot) had been able to kill the case.
Eventually, as the news became public, Congressional hearings into Waters' conduct ensued. In 2000, all the involved law enforcement personnel including Schumacher, Howard and then-DEA Administrator Donnie Marshall were subpoenaed to the House Committee on Government Reform chaired by Dan Burton (R-IN). Transcripts from the hearings of December 6-7, 2000 can be read at the site below:
It is here that accounts differ. The agents testified that Howard had mentioned a letter and politics as being the reason the case was being shut down. Howard (who is also African-American) testified that the reason he intervened in the investigation was because he did not want to subject his agents to false accusations and public/media abuse. He also testified that the case had not actually been closed, but that he had dictated that no further "pro-active" investigation (undercover, surveillance, ect) be conducted without prior authorization. Yet, he later sent an internal agency e-mail to HQs explicitly stating that the case had been closed due to political pressure. In his testimony, Howard stated that he had worded the message in that manner as to cause an immediate response from his counterparts in HQs so that he could "vent his anger". In his testimony, Marshall denied that DEA would close any case due to political pressure.
Much of the questioning in the hearings broke down along partisan lines. While Burton (R) wanted to get to the bottom of the mess, some of the Democrats, like Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Elijah Cummings (D-MD), seemed more interested in defending Waters, who Cummings referred to as the most courageous drug-fighter in Congress-someone who had put her life on the line. Schumacher was questioned about the number of shootings he had been involved in during his law enforcement career and how many people he had killed.
In effect, Marshall, Howard and other DEA managers testified that Waters had not ordered them to terminate the investigation and that the investigation was still on-going. And that was the end of that. As we all know, Maxine Waters is still in Congress today. Not surprisingly, Waters was listed on the 2005 and 2006 lists of the "Most corrupt members of Congress" by the organization, Citizens for Responsibility for Ethics in Washington (CREW) for her "exercise of her power to financially benefit her husband, daughter and son."