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 John Conyers, William Delahunt, Barbara Lee, John R. Lewis, Charles Rangel, Jan Schakowsky, and Lynn Woolsey.
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 in November 1979 from a U.S. prison -- where she had been serving a life sentence for her 1973 execution-style 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. Wrote Waters on September 29, 1998:
"“Dear President Castro, I am writing to clarify my position on a resolution recently passed by the United States House of Representatives on September 14, 1998. I, and some of the Members of the Congressional Black Caucus, mistakenly voted for House Concurrent Resolution 254 which called on the Government of Cuba to extradite to the United States Joanne Chesimard and all other individuals who have fled the United States from political persecution and received political asylum in Cuba. Joanne Chesimard was the birth name of a political activist known to most Members of the Congressional Black Caucus as Assata Shakur. For the record, I am opposed to the resolution. I unequivocally stated that a mistake was made and I would have voted against the legislation."
On September 9, 2000, Waters was among the many people who greeted and honored Castro during his visit to Harlem’s Riverside Church. At the event, Castro said: "I came to Harlem because I knew it was here that I would find my best friends."
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.
In August 2011, Waters had some harsh words for the ascendant conservative movement known as the Tea Party:
"“I’m not afraid of anybody. This is a tough game. You can’t be intimidated. You can’t be frightened. And as far as I’m concerned — the Tea Party can go straight to hell.”
In September 2011, Waters called for the implementation of a federal "jobs program of a trillion dollars or more." "We’ve got to put Americans to work," she said. "That’s the only way to revitalize this economy. When people work they earn money, they spend that money, and that’s what gets the economy up and going."
In February 2012, Waters delivered an incendiary speech to delegates at the California Democratic State Convention, in which she said:
“I saw pictures of [House Speaker John] Boehner and [House Majority Leader Eric] Cantor on our screens. Don’t ever let me see again in life those Republicans in our hall, on our screens, talking about anything. These are demons. These are legislators who are ... destroying this country because again they’d rather do whatever they can to destroy this president rather than for the good of this country.”
At a February 19, 2012 public town hall meeting at the Islamic Society of Orange County, California, Waters said:
“Over the last year, and due to the focus of House Republicans on so-called Muslim radicalization, we have seen politicians and pundits attacking the Islamic faith as a security threat to the United States. Across the country, these people are spreading fear and trying to convince state legislatures that the city adoption of Sharia tenets is a strategy extremists are using to transform the United States into an Islamic country. The scare tactics are working. In at least thirteen states where lawmakers are now considering the adoption of legislation forbidding Sharia. A bill in the Tennessee state senate, for example, would make adherence to Sharia punishable by fifteen years in jail and one of the nation’s Republican Presidential candidates, Newt Gingrich, has called for a federal law that says Sharia law cannot be recognized by any court in the United States....
"In addition to the state attacks, the Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Congressman Peter King, has vowed to continue his controversial radicalization hearings, specifically focusing on Muslim Americans. While it is a challenge for lawmakers to strike the right balance, and protect the most liberties and security, Chairman King and other Republicans’ disrespectful approach to broadening extremism is contrary to American values and actually threatens national security. Effective national security policy must not unfairly target or single out any one community and place [incomprehensible] techniques that focus on racial profiling....
"And that is why I have supported H.R. – that is, House Resolution 3618 entitled, 'End The Racial Profiling Act.' If enacted, this bill will prohibit any law enforcement official from engaging in racial profiling. The legislation would further require law enforcement agencies to maintain adequate policies and procedures to eliminate racial profiling. It is irresponsible to target Muslim community[sic] and hold them accountable for the violent acts of a few. As we all know, individuals from many different communities of faith have used religion and political ideology to justify violence. When we consider the Klu[sic] Klux Klan, the Oklahoma City bombings, James Von Bruin’s[sic] violent shootings at the Holocaust Museum, bombings at Planned Parenthood clinics, and domestic military militias, we know that violence can emerge from many different types of communities....
"According to [the Muslim Public Affairs Council], evidence clearly indicates a general rise in violent extremism across all ideologies. Considering these [facts], it doesn’t make sense for Federal and local law enforcement officials to racially profile or treat Muslim Americans unfairly. We must foster and strengthen relationships with Muslim American community[sic], that like many other community,[sic] care about the safety and security of our country....
"The idea of any legislation that sets out a particular religious group for discrimination in [incomprehensible] violates the Establishment Clause of the Constitution of the United States, and it is also a dangerous, if not familiar piece of American history, and we’re not going back.
"In closing, I wanna quote Daniel Mach, Director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief. This is what he said. He said it was important to recognize what’s really going on, on these anti-Sharia laws. They’re motivated by anti-Muslim bigotry, plain and simple. Sharia equals Islam and Muslims, and a vote against one is a vote against another, Mach said."
In a February 2017 appearance on MSNBC, Waters read a list of people connected to the Trump administration -- Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, Wilbur Ross, and Rex Tillerson -- who also allegedly had ties to Russia and the oil and gas industries. She then said: "Can’t people see what’s going on? Why do you think they [the Russians] hacked into our election? They hacked into the election because they have to make sure that Donald Trump got elected. So this that he could help them with what I think [is] a huge deal. Not only to lift these sanctions [against Russia] but to take over all of these Soviet countries and pull them back into the Soviet Union so they can have access to all of these resources. It’s clear to me and I just think the American people have to have a better understand what’s going on. This is a bunch of scumbags. That’s what they are."
Following is an overview of Waters’ congressional voting record on a number of key issues over the course of her political career:
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.
In July 2000, she voted in favor of an amendment to permit federal funding (with taxpayer dollars) for abortion procedures.
In September 1999, April 2001, and February 2004, she voted against the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which proposed to make it an added criminal offense for someone to injure or kill a fetus while carrying out a crime against a pregnant woman.
In April 2005 and September 2006, she voted against the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act, whose purpose was to prohibit the transportation of a minor across state lines to obtain an abortion without a parent's (or a legal guardian's) consent.
In December 2006 she voted against the Abortion Pain Bill, which mandated that abortion providers, prior to performing an abortion on a fetus older than 20 weeks, inform the mother that: (a) the fetus might feel pain during the procedure, and (b) the use of some pain-reducing drugs may have health risks associated with them.
As a result of her unwavering support for the unrestricted right to abortion-on-demand under any and all circumstances, Waters has consistently received ratings of 100 percent from NARAL and Planned Parenthood.
In July 1996 Waters voted in favor of “an amendment to suspend the federal definition of marriage contained in the bill when a state, through normal democratic procedures, establishes a different definition.” That same month, she voted against the Defense of Marriage Act, which specifically defined marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife.
In July 2006 she voted against a proposed constitutional amendment defining marriage in America, again, exclusively as the union of one man and one woman.
 Minoo Southgate, “Black Power, Nineties Style,” National Rebview (December 13, 1993), p. 47.
 Aldore Collier, “Maxine Waters: Telling It Like It Is in L.A.,” Ebony (October 1992), p. 38.
 “Maxine Waters: Straight Talk from South Central,” Ladies’ Home Journal (August 1992), p. 112.
 Aldore Collier, “Maxine Waters: Telling It Like It Is in L.A.,” Ebony (October 1992), p. 38.
 William Wilbanks, The Myth of a Racist Criminal justice System (Monterey, CA: Brooks/Cole Publishing Company, 1987), p. 33. John DiIulio, “My Black Crime Problem, and Ours,” City Journal (Spring 1996), p. 23.
 “Race and Crime,” Investor’s Business Daily (February 21, 1996).