Mel Watt
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Mel Watt
Mel Watt
Mel Watt official photo.jpg
Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency

January 6, 2014 - January 6, 2019
PresidentBarack Obama
Donald Trump
Edward DeMarco (acting)
Joseph Otting (acting)
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from North Carolina's 12th district

January 3, 1993 - January 6, 2014
Constituency established
Alma Adams
Member of the North Carolina Senate
from the 33rd district

January 1985 - January 1987
Constituency established
Jim Richardson
Personal details
Melvin Luther Watt

(1945-08-26) August 26, 1945 (age 76)
Steele Creek, North Carolina, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Eulada Watt
EducationUniversity of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (BS)
Yale University (JD)

Melvin Luther Watt (born August 26, 1945) is an American politician who served as director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency from 2014 to 2019. He was appointed by President Barack Obama. He is a former United States Representative for North Carolina's 12th congressional district, from 1993 to 2014. He is a member of the Democratic Party.

A lawyer from Charlotte, North Carolina, Watt served one term as a state senator and was the campaign manager for Charlotte mayor Harvey Gantt.

On May 1, 2013, President Barack Obama nominated Watt to lead the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which, among other agencies, administers or has oversight for the FHA, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac.[1][2] The U.S. Senate confirmed Watt on December 10, 2013,[3] and he resigned from the House on January 6, 2014.

On September 27, 2018, Watt was called to testify before Congress about allegations that he had sexually harassed a female employee at the Federal Housing Finance Agency. On November 29, 2018, Watt was found guilty of two counts of misconduct.[4] He ended his term as director on January 6, 2019 and issued the following quote: "In my view, it's time for me to ride off into the sunset because the standards have become so confused that it's difficult to operate in them," he said, according to a transcript of his interview with investigators.[5]

Early life, education and career

Watt was born in Steele Creek, located in Mecklenburg County.[6] He is the son of Evelyn Lucille (née Mauney) and Graham Edward Watt.[7]

Watt is a graduate of York Road High School in Charlotte. He was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1967[8] with a B.S. degree in Business Administration. In 1970, he received a J.D. from Yale Law School[8] and was a published member of the Yale Law Journal.[]

Early career

Watt practiced law from 1970 to 1992, specializing in minority business and economic development law.[9] He has been a partner in several small businesses.[8]

Watt was the campaign manager of Harvey Gantt's campaigns for mayor of Charlotte and for the United States Senate election in North Carolina in 1990.[10] Watt served as a member of the North Carolina Senate from January 1985 to January 1987.[11]

U.S. House of Representatives

Watt's final Congressional portrait

In 1992, Watt entered the Democratic primary for the newly created 12th District, a 64 percent black-majority district stretching from Gastonia to Durham. He won the four-way Democratic primary--the real contest in this heavily Democratic district--with 47 percent of the vote.[12] He then easily won the general election by defeating Barbara Gore Washington (R) and Curtis Wade Krumel (L) with 70 percent of the vote, becoming the first Democrat to represent a significant portion of Charlotte since 1953.[13] In 1993, the original version of his district was thrown out in Shaw v. Reno, and was reconfigured to exclude its far western and far eastern portions. The new 12th, however, was no less Democratic than its predecessor, and Watt was reelected 10 more times. He only faced one relatively close race against Republican Scott Keadle.[]

Committee assignments

He previously served on the Joint Economic Committee.

Caucus memberships

Legislative history

In 2010, Watt sponsored the Coin Modernization, Oversight, and Continuity Act.[16] In 2011, Watt became a co-sponsor of Bill H.R.3261, otherwise known as the Stop Online Piracy Act.[17] In 2013, Watts supported the Amash-Conyers Amendment, and was against the Innovation Act.

Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency

Nomination and confirmation

On May 1, 2013, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Watt to serve as the director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency. Almost immediately, the nomination drew criticism from Republicans, some of whom complained that no politician should lead the agency.[18] Other Republican senators have argued that he lacks technical expertise on housing finance.[19] Obama formally nominated Watt to the post on May 7, 2013.[20]

In July 2013, the Senate Banking Committee advanced Watt's nomination on a party-line vote.[19]

On October 28, 2013, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid motioned to invoke cloture on Watt's nomination, setting up a key test of whether his nomination could overcome procedural hurdles and move to a final up-or-down vote.[21] The motion failed on October 31, with 56 votes in favor, shy of the 60 needed to pass.[22]

After a series of procedural votes on December 10, 2013, the Senate voted 57-40 to invoke cloture on Watt's nomination, ending the Republican filibuster under the Senate's recently modified rules for cloture on executive branch nominees.[23] Later that same day, the Senate confirmed Watt in a 57-41 vote.[3]

Watt was investigated in July 2018 for sexually harassing an employee.[24][25]


Accusation by Ralph Nader of use of "racial epithet"

In 2004, Ralph Nader attended a meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus, at which Nader clashed with members of the caucus over his presidential bid. After the meeting, Nader alleged that Watt twice uttered an "obscene racial epithet" towards him. It was alleged that Watt said: "You're just another arrogant white man — telling us what we can do — it's all about your ego — another fucking arrogant white man." Although Nader (who is of Lebanese descent) wrote a letter to the Caucus and to Watt asking for an apology, none was offered.[26]

Opposition to Federal Reserve auditing

In 2009, fellow congressman Ron Paul reported to Bloomberg that while Paul's bill HR 1207, which mandates an audit of the Federal Reserve, was in subcommittee, Watt had substantially altered the substance of the bill, a move which had "gutted" the bill's protections.[27] According to Bloomberg News, on October 20, 2009, "The bill, with 308 co-sponsors, has been stripped of provisions that would remove Fed exemptions from audits of transactions with foreign central banks, monetary policy deliberations, transactions made under the direction of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) and communications between the Board, the reserve banks and staff, Paul said today." Paul said there is "nothing left" in the bill after Watt's actions.[27]

Paul responded when he and Alan Grayson of Florida passed a competing amendment hours before the bill cleared the House Financial Services Committee to restore the bill's original language and undo Watt's attempts to weaken its effects. Watt won support from Chairman Barney Frank of Massachusetts and the Congressional Black Caucus, both of which backed his amendment. Eight of the ten Black Caucus members on the committee voted against the Paul-Grayson amendment. Watt and Frank voted to inhibit the bill's approval. With pressure from the Congressional Black Caucus to delay consideration of the bill by the full House of Representatives, it is unclear when HR 1207 will face a final vote.[28]

The country's largest bank Bank of America is headquartered in Charlotte in Watt's congressional district and has threatened to leave. The Sunlight Foundation reported that 45% of Watt's campaign contributions for 2009 are from corporations in the real estate, insurance and finance industries, the seventh-highest percentage of any member of Congress.[29][30] Watt's largest contributors included American Express, Wachovia, Bank of America and the American Bankers Association.[31]

Support of SOPA

Congressman Watt ardently supports the Stop Online Piracy Act, stating that it is "beyond troubling to hear hyperbolic charges that this bill will open the floodgates to government censorship".[32]

Ethics investigation

Congressman Watt was formally investigated by the Office of Congressional Ethics over a series of fundraising events he was involved in. On December 9, 2009 Watt held a fundraiser and soon after withdrew a proposal he had introduced to subject auto dealers to more stringent regulations. The fundraiser brought donors mainly from large finance companies such as Goldman Sachs.[33] Watt was later cleared of charges or wrongdoing.[34]

In what the nonpartisan Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) called "disgraceful",[35] Watt introduced legislation to slash funding for the Office of Congressional Ethics.[36]

Racial gerrymandering

In 1993, the design of his district was challenged as an instance of racial gerrymandering. The Supreme Court held in Shaw v. Reno that the unusual shape of the district required strict scrutiny of its racial purpose. Although it is rare for a law to survive strict scrutiny, the districting plan was upheld on remand as "narrowly tailored to further the state's compelling interest in complying with the Voting Rights Act".[37]

Political campaigns

In 1992, Watt was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from North Carolina's newly created 12th Congressional District and became one of only two African American members elected to Congress from North Carolina in the 20th century, the other being Eva M. Clayton.

Recent election results


US House of Representatives 12th District General Election 2010[38]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Mel Watt 103,495 63.88
Republican Greg Dority 55,315 34.14
Libertarian Lon Cecil 3,197 1.97
Total votes 162,007 100.00


US House of Representatives 12th District General Election 2012[39]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Mel Watt 246,451 79.66
Republican Jack Brosch 62,924 20.34
Libertarian Lon Cecil 0 0
Total votes 309,375 100.00

See also


  1. ^ Hopkins, Cheyenne; Benson, Clea (May 1, 2013). "Obama Said to Choose Watt to Lead Fannie Mae Regulator". Bloomberg.
  2. ^ Puzzanghera, Jim (May 1, 2013). "Obama to nominate Democratic Rep. Mel Watt to head housing agency". Los Angeles Times.
  3. ^ a b
  4. ^ "Report of Administrative Inquiry into Allegations of Misconduct by the FHFA Director".
  5. ^ "Mel Watt attempted to 'coerce' relationship with employee while FHFA director, IG report says".
  6. ^ "Members of Congress/Melvin Watt". The U. S. Congress Votes Database. The Washington Post. Archived from the original on February 25, 2010. Retrieved 2010.
  7. ^ "melvin l watt". Retrieved .
  8. ^ a b c "Fisher challenges Watt again in 12th Congressional District". Davidson County Dispatch. October 30, 2006. Retrieved 2008.
  9. ^ "Mel Watt is 'The Man'". Atlanta Daily World. 2013-05-23. Retrieved .
  10. ^ Smothers, Ronald (7 June 1990). "THE 1990 ELECTIONS; North Carolina Democrat Sets Strategy in Taking On Helms". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012.
  11. ^ a b "Congressman Mel Watt". North Carolina Democratic Party. Archived from the original on 15 April 2012. Retrieved 2011.
  12. ^ "Our Campaigns - NC District 12 - D Primary Race - May 05, 1992". Retrieved .
  13. ^ "Our Campaigns - NC District 12 Race - Nov 03, 1992". Retrieved .
  14. ^ "Caucus Members". Congressional Progressive Caucus. Retrieved 2012.
  15. ^ "Our Members". US House of Representatives International Conservation Caucus. Archived from the original on 24 March 2012. Retrieved 2012.
  16. ^ Melvin, Watt (2010-12-14). "H.R.6162 - 111th Congress (2009-2010): Coin Modernization, Oversight, and Continuity Act of 2010". Retrieved .[permanent dead link]
  17. ^ Bill H.R.3261;;
  18. ^ Prior, Jon; Lee, MJ (2013-05-02). "Mel Watt nomination faces long odds". Politico. Retrieved .
  19. ^ a b Chadbourn, Margaret (October 28, 2013). "White House mounts push to win confirmation for housing nominee". Reuters. Retrieved .
  20. ^ "Presidential Nominations Sent to the Senate". 2013-05-07. Retrieved – via National Archives.
  21. ^ "Cloture filed on 6 nominations-Estevez, Archuleta, Wheeler, Lew, Watt, and Millett". October 28, 2013. Archived from the original on October 29, 2013. Retrieved .
  22. ^ "Senate GOP blocks Mel Watt nomination". Washington Post. Retrieved .
  23. ^ "U.S. Senate: U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 113th Congress - 1st Session". Retrieved .
  24. ^ 27 July 2018: 'If I kissed that one, would it lead to more?' Federal housing chief investigated for sexual harassment
  25. ^ "Federal Housing Agency Employee Secretly Taped Director's Sexual Advances Toward Her". Retrieved .
  26. ^ Nichols, Hans; Savodnik, Peter (14 July 2004). "Nader Angers Congressional Black Caucus with Demand for Apology". The Hill. Archived from the original on 24 October 2007.
  27. ^ a b Ivry, Bob (30 October 2009). "Federal Reserve Policy Audit Legislation 'Gutted,' Paul Says". Bloomberg. Retrieved 2011.
  28. ^ Dayen, David (19 November 2009). "Paul-Grayson "Audit The Fed" Bill Passes Financial Services Committee". Fire Dog Lake. Retrieved 2011.
  29. ^ Blumenthal, Paul (15 October 2009). "Chamber of Commerce Deploys Former Government Officials to Lobby On Financial Regulation". Sunlight Foundation. Archived from the original on 11 October 2010. Retrieved 2011.
  30. ^ Blumenthal, Paul (9 October 2009). "Top Financial Services Committee Members Rely Heavily On Finance Campaign Contributions". Sunlight Foundation. Archived from the original on 18 October 2010. Retrieved 2011.
  31. ^ "Top 20 Contributors [of] Representative Melvin L. Watt 2009 - 2010". OpenSecrets. 19 November 2009.
  32. ^ McCullagh, Declan (16 November 2011). "SOPA bill won't make U.S. a 'repressive regime,' Democrat says". Retrieved 2011.
  33. ^ Leonnig, Carol D. (16 June 2010). "8 House members investigated over fundraisers held near financial reform vote". Washington Post. Retrieved 2011.
  34. ^ Morrill, Jim (2 September 2011). "Mel Watt cleared by ethics panel". Charlotte Observer. Reprinted at Queen City Metro website
  35. ^ "Watt's disgraceful attempt to destroy the OCE". Center for Responsible Ethics in Washington. Archived from the original on 23 March 2012. Retrieved 2011.
  36. ^ Siegelbaum, Debbie (21 July 2011). "Dem seeks to slash funding for ethics office set up by Pelosi". The Hill. Retrieved 2011.
  37. ^ "U.S. Panel in North Carolina Calls Racial Gerrymandering Legal". The New York Times. 2 August 1994.
  38. ^ "NC 12th District General Election Results 2010". NC State Board of Elections. Retrieved 2012.
  39. ^ "NC 12th District General Election Results 2012". NC State Board of Elections. Retrieved 2012.

External links

U.S. House of Representatives
New constituency Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from North Carolina's 12th congressional district

Succeeded by
Preceded by Chair of Congressional Black Caucus
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency
Succeeded by
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded byas Former US Representative Order of precedence of the United States
as Former US Representative
Succeeded byas Former US Representative

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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