July 25, 2008
From the Desk of Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton:
Rangel Files Ethics Complaint against Himself!
Following up on last week’s scandal involving Charles Rangel, this week the New York congressman took the unprecedented step of filing a complaint with the House Ethics Committee against himself!
By way of a reminder, The Washington Post reported last week that Rangel, who is chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, has been using his congressional office to raise funds from corporations that have business before his committee in order to bankroll his Charles P. Rangel Center for Public Service. (The center will house Rangel’s papers after he retires. Rangel’s fundraising goal? $30 million.)
Rangel was also accused of using his influence to keep four extremely rare rent-stabilized apartments in Harlem while his neighbors are being subjected to eviction. Rangel’s office says he plans to file a separate ethics complaint on that matter as well.
Clearly this is nothing more than a publicity stunt. And it says more about Rangel’s confidence that his peers will ignore his wrongdoing (or issue a mere slap on the wrist) than it does about his "innocence." Remember, this is the same House Ethics Committee that has ignored serious misconduct on the part of many members of Congress, including: Gary Condit, Patrick Kennedy, John Conyers, Cynthia McKinney, William Jefferson, Duke Cunningham, and Jim McDermott.
And, trust me, this is a partial list.
Despite promises by Democrats in the last election cycle to completely revamp the ethics process in Washington, the system is still badly broken. You may recall I testified last year before the House Special Task Force on Ethics Enforcement concerning congressional ethics reform. You can read my complete testimony here, but one of my main points was that any system that does not allow for complaints filed by citizens and outside organizations would be, in a word, worthless. That point was made by Rangel this week.
After all, despite serious allegations about Rangel’s misconduct, no one else in Congress saw fit to file an ethics complaint against him! He had to do it himself, and then only as a publicity stunt.
Rangel does admit in his letter of complaint to Stephanie Tubbs Jones, chairman of the ethics panel, that he mailed 150 fundraising letters on congressional stationery to philanthropic and business leaders.
"[I]f I inadvertently violated House rules, I am prepared to trust the committee’s judgment…" Rangel wrote.
I wish I could say the same.
Mainstream Media Ignores John Edwards Scandal
Former Senator John Edwards was caught by reporters from the National Enquirer late Monday night visiting the Beverly Hilton hotel room of Rielle Hunter, a woman the Enquirer has reported is not only Edwards’ mistress, but the woman with whom the former presidential candidate reportedly fathered a child.
According to the story, Edwards snuck into the hotel at 9:45 p.m. through a side entrance "looking nervous." After leaving the hotel for a short period of time, Edwards and Ms. Hunter returned and continued to visit until 2:40 a.m. Edwards then reportedly tried to escape through the hotel basement, but was cornered and questioned by a few Enquirer reporters. (One reporter said Edwards looked "like a deer caught in the headlights.") Ultimately, Edwards decided to hide out in a bathroom for 15 minutes until hotel security arrived and escorted him out of the hotel.
Okay, granted, it was the National Enquirer breaking the story. But even the liberal Slate magazine is asking why the mainstream media has not exercised due diligence and at least checked the facts of these allegations. (The National Enquirer first reported the Edwards-Hunter alleged affair in December 2007. The mainstream media has had plenty of time to investigate.) According to Slate:
"…If the press craves consistency, it owes its readers some sort of assessment of Edwards…If we give Edwards the benefit of the doubt, which he deserves, visiting the woman who recently gave birth to the out-of-wedlock child of a married campaign aide is completely OK. But meeting her at a Beverly Hills hotel in the early hours of the morning and running from tabloid reporters when approached and hiding in a hotel bathroom for 15 minutes, as the Enquirer reports Edwards did, is not completely OK…"
I couldn’t agree more.
So why is John Edwards, a man who is on the "short list" of vice presidential candidates for Barack Obama, getting a free pass?
Perhaps I just answered my own question.
Military Tribunal Trial Moves Forward for Bin Laden "Driver"
The first American war crimes trial since World War II got underway at Guantanamo Bay on July 21st after federal Judge James Robertson denied a last minute appeal by lawyers for Salim Hamdan, who is often misleadingly described as merely Osama bin Laden’s "driver." Hamdan was trying to use the recent Supreme Court ruling granting additional constitutional rights to terrorists to stall his trial. According to The Associated Press:
"Courts should respect the balance that Congress has struck," [Robertson] said, adding that "Hamdan is to face a military commission designed by Congress acting on guidelines handed down by the Supreme Court."
Judge Robertson also noted that Hamdan may take his claim to a civilian court once the military trial process is complete. Judge Robertson’s complete ruling is here.
(It is important to note that Judge Robertson ruled in 2004 that the military tribunal process put in place by President Bush was unconstitutional, a finding that was later upheld by the Supreme Court. Congress and President Bush responded by revising the system through the Military Commissions Act of 2006.)
Hamdan faces charges of conspiracy and aiding terrorism. He is no mere driver, and served as bodyguard and weapons transporter for bin Laden. He faces a maximum life sentence if convicted.
Many were watching this court decision to see how last month’s Supreme Court ruling might impact the military tribunal process. So far so good. The federal court refused to intervene and the process is moving forward.
You may recall that Judicial Watch was recently selected by the Pentagon to monitor the proceedings of five 9/11 co-conspirators, providing a counterpoint to the ACLU and other radical groups supporting the terrorists. Judicial Watch Director of Litigation Paul Orfanedes attended arraignments at Guantanamo Bay. Click here for more information on Paul’s observations.
Who Killed Chandra Levy?
In closing, I commend to you The Washington Post‘s series entitled, "Who Killed Chandra Levy?" You will recall Ms. Levy was an intern in the office of Congressman Gary Condit (D-CA) when she disappeared. She was subsequently found murdered in Rock Creek Park. Ms. Levy had been carrying on an affair with Condit at the time of her disappearance. The Post series is replete with shocking details about the incompetence of the Washington, DC Police Department and Congressman Gary Condit’s attempts to obstruct the investigation. (Shocked by the behavior of Condit, we even filed a complaint with a grand jury).
Prosecutors or the House Ethics Committee failed to do anything about Condit’s decrepit and seemingly criminal behavior. Ms. Levy’s murder remains a mystery seven years after her death, though The Post seems to have found a likely suspect.
Until next week…
Judicial Watch is a non-partisan, educational foundation organized under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue code. Judicial Watch is dedicated to fighting government and judicial corruption and promoting a return to ethics and morality in our nation’s public life. To make a tax-deductible contribution in support of our efforts, click here.