When California Congresswoman Maxine Waters pays her debts, it’s a family first affair.
Waters’ campaign is in perpetual debt to her daughter Karen Waters for running a slate mailer operation that cashes in on the congresswoman’s endorsement of various California candidates. The Waters campaign reported a debt of $183,000 to the younger Waters at the end of 2018, and paid out about $130,000 over the last year, campaign finance records show.
The six-figure windfall brought the so-called “debt” to $52,000 that remains unpaid, which accounts for more than half of all of the campaign’s roughly $100,000 reported debt. But while the campaign reports about $600,000 in the bank, some other expenses have remained unpaid for years – a clear sign that some payments are more important than others.
The Washington Free Beacon reports:
The committee still maintains a debt of $300 for a security guard and $600 for a sound system at a Christmas party that first appeared on her post-general report from last year. Other debts, such as an American Airlines travel expense of $719.60, were racked up between April 1 and May 16, 2012, filings show. That debt still appears on Waters’s most recent FEC filings. Various congressional FCU Visa card purchases totaling $3,506, which first appeared on her April 2008 quarterly report, remain unpaid.
The campaign mailer operation has hauled in millions for Waters’ campaign over the years, including more than $400,000 during the most recent midterm election cycle. Money for the mailers came from numerous political candidates throughout the state, from Sen. Dianne Feinstein to county sheriffs, judges, controller, secretary of state, equalization board candidates, assessors and other races.
Gov. Gavin Newsom, for one, paid $52,000 to Citizens for Waters, while Families & Teachers for Anotinon Villaraigosa For Governor 2018 also spent five-figures. Citizens for Waters took in more than 20 checks of more than $10,000 for the 2018 midterms, FEC records show.
The slate mailer operation allows Waters to collect significant sums for herself and her daughter simply by mailing sample ballots to residents in her Los Angeles district with the congresswoman’s official endorsement.
Campaign finance watchdogs have filed federal elections complaints about the arrangement in the past, and the FEC found in a 2004 decision that while the operation is shady, it doesn’t technically violate the law.
Candidates are supposedly reimbursing Waters’ campaign for the cost of the slate mailer, not buying the congresswoman’s endorsement, though experts contend there’s little difference.
“Those payments are legitimate if it’s approximate to the cost for the entity producing, printing and sending the mailers,” Adav Noti, a former FEC assistant general counsel, told Fox News. “Without seeing the information on the cost of the mailers, it’s difficult to say if there is anything inherently wrong with the math.”
John Wonderlich, executive director of the Sunlight Foundation, summarized it another way: “This certainly violates the spirit of the campaign finance laws, but the FEC doesn’t seem to think it violates the letter of the law.”