Rep. Charles Rangel, the former Chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, has been charged with multiple ethics violations by the House Ethics Committee. So far, the 80-year-old Rangel remains defiant.
While the exact nature of the violations have not been publicly revealed, Rangel has previously been admonished for accepting free trips to the Caribbean from corporate interests. Rangel was subsequently removed from his chairmanship of the Ways and Means Committee.
Rangel has also been investigated for “a series of allegations that include failing to report hundreds of thousands of dollars in income and assets, improper use of several rent-controlled apartments in his Harlem district, fundraising efforts for a college center that bears his name, and failing to pay taxes on property he owns in the Dominican Republic,” reported McClatchy.
Charles Rangel will now endure a trial-like session of a select subcommittee of the House Ethics Committee consisting of four Democrats and four Republicans. This is an ominous development for Rangel. The last time this happened, it was concerning the matter of James Trafficant, accused of bribery, tax evasion, and racketeering. Trafficant was expelled from Congress and sent to prison.
There is some speculation that Rangel may decide on the better part of valor, and decide that he needs to spend the twilight of his life with his grand children and avoid concluding his four decades in Congress with an ethics conviction, followed by a possible jail sentence.
Charles Rangel’s fall has been something of a Shakespearean tragedy, a man once powerful in Congress, in charge of tax legislation, feared and respected, a fixture on television talk shows. Now, Rangel may be lucky to avoid a humiliating conviction by the special sub-committee, followed by a trial and possible conviction in an actual court.
Rangel’s latest ethics troubles could not come at a worse time for House Democrats, who are struggling to maintain their increasingly loosening grasp on their majority in Congress. When the Democrats seized the majority in 2006, they touted the beginning of an era of openness and the end of corruption they claimed had afflicted Congress under the Republicans.
Now the Republicans, on the brink of taking back control of Congress, have a powerful talking point concerning ethics and corruption. The House, under Speaker Nancy Pelosi, has hardly been a hot bed of ethics and open government. However, when the Republicans take over the House, as they likely will, they will actually have to be ethical and open. Otherwise, cynicism felt by Americans about politics will only increase.
Rangel summoned by special ethics panel for violations, William Douglas, McClatchy Newspapers, July 22nd, 2010