WASHINGTON - A group of African-American lawmakers summoned Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke to Capitol Hill on Monday for a closed-door meeting aimed at making sure minorities and women get their share of the billions of dollars in federal bailout funds.
"We are not going to sit back and allow billions of dollars to be dumped into this economy and watch the same old players be advantaged by it," said Representative Maxine Waters, a California Democrat and the co-chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Economic Security Taskforce.
"We are not going to sit back and watch some of the players who are responsible for the economic mess that we are in today be the recipients of these taxpayer dollars and provide services and make even more money despite the fact they have mismanaged their own businesses," said Waters, who also heads the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity.
The Los Angeles congresswoman told reporters at a press conference after the meeting that the Fed chief was receptive to their concerns, but offered no concrete promises. Many of the 43 members of the Congressional Black Caucus and hundreds of other leaders from various trade associations representing minorities and women in dozens of sectors related to financial services listened to Bernanke and other key government officials at the all-day session.
WARMER RECEPTION FROM OBAMA
She noted that the Obama administration, headed by the first African-American president in the nation's history, has been more receptive to the concerns of women and minorities than the Bush administration has been in the past eight years.
"Having said that, even though we now have Democratic administration to work with, we still have to push to make sure that minority and women-owned businesses are included," she said, vowing "aggressive" policy action.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner did not attend the meeting, though Gary Grippo, deputy assistant secretary for fiscal operations and policy, represented Treasury at the meeting. Officials from the Federal Housing Finance Agency and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation were also there.
The Congressional Black Caucus members said Monday's meeting was just the first in a series of meetings designed to keep pressure on the administration and other key officials as they disburse what could be as much as $10.925 trillion in federal money to jumpstart the weak economy.
Rep. Gregory Meeks, a New York Democrat who co-chairs the Congressional Black Caucus Economic Security Taskforce with Waters, said including a broader array of citizens in the process is in the country's best economic interests.
"In the end, it will make sure that all are included in this economic recovery and it is also the best way to ensure the taxpayers get their money back," Meeks said.
Rep. Gwen Moore, a Wisconsin Democrat, called for more transparency of the process of doling out government bailout funds and buying up so-called toxic assets.
Asked why the meeting was then closed to reporters eager to hear Bernanke's views, Waters said some attendees were not used to dealing with media and she did not want them to be misquoted.
(Editing by Jan Paschal)