U.S. Rep. Roger Williams (R-Austin) was accused of using his position on the House Financial Services Committee to pressure a bank on behalf of a Marble Falls campaign donor, according to a report by the Houston Chronicle.
The controversy came to light in a Texas bankruptcy case, where it was revealed that Williams attempted to broker a meeting between his political donor and oil investor Gary Martin of Marble Falls with Mariner Kemper, the CEO of UMB Financial Corp., which owns UMB Bank.
The meeting was supposedly to discuss a Chapter 11 bankruptcy involving a third party, which Repeat Precision and the bank are part of as creditors. Martin is a manager of Repeat Precision.
UMB attorney Kyle Hirsch said in testimony for the bankruptcy case that Williams’ request for the meeting, which was ultimately denied, put pressure on UMB to meet or there would be problems for the bank in Congress. Hirsch was not present during the conversation in question, and UMB Bank President Michael Garner said in his deposition that he didn’t view the conversation with Williams as threatening.
When Hirsch was pressed on how he concluded that Williams’ request contained a threat, he said he couldn’t divulge the answer without violating the bank’s right to attorney-client privilege.
When reached for comment, Hirsch said it was against his firm’s policy to respond.
Gary Martin could not be reached for comment at the time of publication.
Williams said he saw nothing wrong with setting up a meeting between the two parties. In his testimony, Williams said his attempt to establish a meeting between the two was routine. He said he might have mentioned his post on the House committee but couldn’t recall.
“This was a zealous swamp attorney, with no firsthand account of any conversation, trying to smear a congressman in order to score political points for his big bank client,” according to Williams spokesman Colby Hale in a statement received by DailyTrib.com. “The judge in the case admonished him for being a ‘zealot’ for unjustifiably dragging Congressman Williams into the conversation, threw it out, and the record was even set straight by his own client who testified under oath multiple times that the Congressman did nothing inappropriate. This is clearly being used as a political attack to sway the outcome of an election. This is what politics has come to in 2020: personal attacks.”
Williams represents the Texas 25th congressional district, which includes Burnet County. He faces Democrat Julie Oliver, who works in healthcare finance, in the Nov. 3 election.