MARCH 04, 2010
A day after confidently assuring (“You bet your sweet life!”) that he still chairs the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, Charles Rangel became the second consecutive Democrat to get booted as head of the tax-writing panel amid a highly-publicized corruption scandal.
The famously unscrupulous politician, who has represented Harlem in the U.S. House for nearly four decades, was most recently reprimanded by the largely remiss House Ethics Committee for taking a couple of corporate-funded trips to the Caribbean during lavish Congressional Black Caucus jaunts. The ethics panel concluded last week that Rangel, a notoriously feisty powerbroker, violated the chamber’s gift rules in taking the trips.
The arrogant and seemingly untouchable politician blamed the violation on a staff member, assuring he knew nothing about major corporations funding the luxurious excursions. Members of congress shouldn’t be held responsible for their staffs’ mistakes, Rangel asserted at a press conference to respond to the ethics committee’s findings which he labeled “disturbing.”
It marked the admonishment of merely one of Rangel’s many transgressions, which have been well documented in the media and mostly ignored by Democrats, especially House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Rangel is also under investigation for tax evasion, hiding hundreds of thousands of dollars in assets, using his office to raise money from corporations with business before him and illegally accepting multiple rent control apartments in his New York district.
One Pulitzer-prize winning political columnist sent Rangel a message this week: “Sorry, Charlie. You have no one to blame but yourself.” Rangel has become a creature of the rarified insider circles where the normal rules apply only to little people, not to him, the message further says.
Rangel is so sleazy that he’s tried to fend off punishment with money by making 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.
Perhaps Rangel will end up in jail like the disgraced Democrat who was forced out of the House Ways and Means chairmanship before him. Illinois Congressman Dan Rostenkowski served a 15-month prison sentence for operating a scheme in which he traded postal stamps for cash, hired “ghost” employees to pad his congressional payroll with fake workers and used his account at the House stationery shop to buy gifts. Bill Clinton pardoned Rostenkowski in 2000.
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