Los Angeles Democrat Maxine Waters has been a fixture of southern California politics for decades. The longtime politician is known for her outspoken nature, which makes her enormously popular with her constituents and the subject of much criticism and many smear attempts by her political rivals.
One long-running attempt to make her out to be a fraud is the charge that despite Waters representing herself as a working-class lawmaker, she owns a number of homes in California — including a multi-million dollar mansion in California’s 37th district, which is outside the 43rd district that the enormously popular Waters has represented for decades.
But key details and insinuations in the “poor Maxine Waters” narrative are unproven or misleading. Waters’ home, for example, was located in the 43rd district when she purchased it in 2004 — redistricting that followed placed Waters’ home a few blocks outside her home district. Also, real estate estimates put the home’s value at about $2.8 million, well below the $4.5 million claimed in the narrative.
There are different variations of the rumor, but the gist is evidently that Waters should be considered a a hypocrite for owning a $4.5 million mansion in south Los Angeles and refusing to live in her own “crime-stricken” district, and that there are questions about how Waters amassed her wealth during a long career in public service that has spanned decades.
Where Did “Poor Maxine Waters” Claims Come From?
The narrative took shape in April 2017, after Maxine Waters emerged as a vocal opponent of President Trump. The unreliable website TruePundit.com reported in April 2017 that “poverty warrior” Waters owned a $4.5 million mansion, another property worth up to $1.1 million and a time-share property in Palm Springs, adding pointedly that those purchases were “savvy real estate acquisitions for a public servant with a $174,000 House of Representatives salary.”
In May 2017, Maxine Waters faced protestors holding signs bearing slogans such as “Poverty Pimp” and “Impeach Waters” outside a town hall in her home district, which received widespread media coverage that advanced the narrative. In July 2017, the narrative re-emerged after Waters said that Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson “doesn’t care about people in public housing.”
Waters’ comments about Ben Carson rekindled the “Poor Maxine” narrative, which was soon circulating in YouTube videos and blog posts like this one appearing at various fringe sites. We’ll take a look at a few of the individual claims that resurface in different variations.
Maxine Waters Lives in a $4.5 Million Mansion, Refuses to Live in Her Home Congressional District
Misleading. Maxine Waters owns multiple properties in southern California. As reported, one of them is a home worth millions that is located in a section of Hancock Park that sits outside Waters’ district.
Waters listed the value of the home as $1 million to $5 million on financial disclosure statements for 2014. Real estate records indicate that the home was last sold in 2004, and that its current value is about $2.8 million (not $4.5 million.) It is difficult to gauge the market value of a home that hasn’t been sold in over 10 years, but it’s not clear exactly how the $4.5 million price tag was formulated.
And it is true that Maxine Waters’ home is located outside her home congressional district, but that is because of redistricting that took place after she purchased her home. Waters’ home is located in an area of South Los Angeles where four congressional districts converge, often creating confusion among residents. The Los Angeles Times reports that it is a three-minute walk from Waters’ home to her congressional district:
Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters is registered to vote at her home in the Vermont Knolls neighborhood in South Los Angeles. The home used to be within the boundaries of her district, until redistricting shifted some of Waters’ neighbors into the 37th District now represented by Democratic Rep. Karen Bass.
Waters’ 43rd District is about a three-minute walk from her front door around the corner and across Vermont Avenue. That is news to some voters on her block who figured their famous neighbor — the one who has earned national headlines over the course of her 13 terms in Congress — represents them in Washington.
Considering current circumstances, questions about the value of Maxine Waters’ home, and that her home was located in the 43rd district when she purchased it, we’re calling this one “misleading.”
Questions About How Maxine Waters Amassed Her Wealth
False. The “Poor Maxine” narrative insinuates that shady dealings could explain how a public servant earning a salary of $174,000 per year could afford a multi-million home and a number of additional real estate holdings. But the narrative doesn’t attempt to provide any evidence that Waters was involved in shady dealings, and it does not account for steadily rising property values throughout southern California.
Furthermore, the narrative’s insinuation that the Waters are a single-income household doesn’t hold up. Maxine’s husband, Sidney Waters, is a former National Football League player, a Mercedes dealer and minority business dealer who partnered with former teammate and NFL great Jim Brown. He receives pensions from the NFL and Mercedes-Benz in addition to a few other sources of income, according to the couple’s financial disclosures.
It is not clear exactly how much income Sidney Waters earns each year, but the claim that Maxine Waters’ congressional salary provides the couple’s only source of income, as with the rest listed here, is false.