FEBRUARY 26, 2010
The joke of a House Ethics Committee could no longer ignore a famously unscrupulous—and seemingly untouchable—New York congressman’s corrupt activities, finally admonishing him for one of his many transgressions.
Democrat Charles Rangel, who has represented Harlem in the U.S. House for three decades, has been reprimanded for taking a couple of corporate-funded trips to the Caribbean during lavish Congressional Black Caucus jaunts. The House ethics panel concluded this week that the veteran lawmaker, who chairs the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, violated the chamber’s gift rules in taking the trips.
While a “public admonishment” from the notoriously remiss House Ethics Committee is merely a figurative slap on the wrist with no further consequence, it certainly presents a dilemma for the Democratic leadership which is already facing serious midterm election loses and all-time low approval ratings.
Like the crooked politician that he has repeatedly proven to be, Rangel claims he knew nothing about major corporations funding the luxurious excursions and blamed it all on a staffer. Members of congress shouldn’t be held responsible for their staffs’ mistakes, the embattled lawmaker asserted at a press conference to address the committee’s ruling which he described as “disturbing.”
This could very well be the tip of the iceberg for Rangel, who is under investigation for a multitude of transgressions, including tax evasion, using his office to raise money from corporations with business before him and illegally accepting multiple rent control apartments in his New York district. Incredibly, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi continues supporting her good friend and refuses to remove him from his prestigious tax committee chairmanship.
Madam Speaker’s ardent support hasn’t wavered even though, fearing the tax probe would reveal his hidden assets, last fall Rangel disclosed that he is at least twice as wealthy as reported in congressional disclosure forms. For years he has concealed assets worth more than $1 million, including a federal credit union account worth between a quarter of a million and half a million dollars, a separate account at a private institution worth about the same, tens of thousands of dollars in municipal bonds and tens of thousands more in rental income.
Rangel has tried to fend off punishment with money. He has actually made generous campaign contributions to members of the House Ethics Committee charged with investigating him. The back-door deals and political power peddling have bought him some time, but his mounting legal problems can’t go unpunished forever.
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