By Russell Berman - 09/16/10 10:06 PM EDT
Three staffers working for embattled Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) were asked by security officers to leave an event in downtown Washington on Thursday after they tried to display large campaign signs just as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was about to speak.
The aides were holding lawn signs that defended Waters from the ethics charges she is facing in the House.
Pelosi was appearing outside the Historical Society of Washington, D.C., where she addressed an X Prize awards ceremony honoring the winners of a contest to build a safe car that gets at least 100 miles per gallon. The staffers entered the outdoor area where Pelosi was scheduled to speak and departed without incident when asked to leave minutes later.
Waters told The Hill afterward that the staffers had been displaying the signs at the annual legislative conference for the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Foundation, which was held at the Washington Convention Center a few blocks away. “It ain’t about Nancy. It’s about black people,” Waters said.
The charges against Waters were first handled by the Office of Congressional Ethics, which was established by Pelosi in 2008.
Waters said she was deploying campaign signs at events throughout the country to defend herself against charges that she improperly intervened to help a failing bank secure a meeting with Treasury officials even though her husband had owned stock in the company and previously served on its board. “These signs will show up wherever large numbers of African-Americans gather,” Waters said.
A campaign aide to the congresswoman said the young men at the Pelosi event were staffers paid for the day. The aide said 40 to 50 yard signs were printed, in addition to 10,000 handouts. The aide said a similar presence would be made at other events between now and when Waters’s trial takes place, but that no formal plans had been made.
“It's important to communicate our message,” the aide said.
The staffers who attended the Pelosi event declined to speak to The Hill, but before leaving, one of the aides identified Waters as his aunt and said they were at the X Prize ceremony to see the cars on display. The Waters campaign aide said no family members were among the staffers sent to the CBC conference. Told that one of the staffers had identified her as his aunt, Waters shrugged and replied: “I’m everybody’s aunt.”
Pelosi's office said Friday morning that it did not ask for anyone to be told to leave the event on Thursday.
This story was updated at 10:30 a.m. on Sept. 17.