High fives to Democratic Reps. Maxine Waters of California and Charles Rangel of New York for telling the National Newspaper Publishers Association, also known as the Black Press of America, that they do not cite racism as the reason for the U.S. House's Office of Congressional Ethics investigations into their financial activities. The farther away we stay from the murky swamp of the term racism and the anger it incites in all corners and among persons of all colors of this country, the stronger a nation we shall be.
Here's what both lawmakers are quoted as telling the association in a recent article on blackvoicenews.com:
"People are speculating all kinds of things," Waters said in an August 6 interview with the NNPA News Service. "There is one thing that I am clear about though. I am clear that if this gets obscured with any other argument before we get our facts out, we don't stand a chance because people will say we're hiding behind race or something. So, I think what has to happen is the charges have to be clear, we have to have our day in court and then let's deal with the process and how the system is working or not working."
Rangel is quoted as follows:
"Do I believe the case is racially motivated? No. So, I'd like to acknowledge my re-election which I'm concentrating on," Rangel said in a message left on the NNPA voice mail. "And the hearing date has not been set, so that's about the size of it."
Those types of responses are much more healing than this leaked "off the record" statement published on Politico:
There's a "dual standard, one for most members and one for African-Americans," said one member of the Congressional Black Caucus, speaking on the condition of anonymity. The member said it's too easy for an outside group to damage someone's reputation by filing a claim with OCE. "This is stacked against you once an accusation is made," the lawmaker added. "You're guilty until proven otherwise."
Rangel is charged with 13 separate counts of unethical behavior, some legitimate, some of which strike this writer as a bit bogus. They range from nonpayment of taxes on rental properties (the legitimate counts) to soliciting charitable donations for a school that he founded and is named after him (Yes, he did so on Congressional letterhead, which was not smart, but the solicitations in and of themselves do not amount to unethical behavior).
Waters is said to have intervened with the Treasury Department to help a minority-owned Internet bank on whose board her husband had served. He also owned $250,000 worth of stock in the bank's company.
Members of the Black Caucus are not without some reason to be upset. Earlier this year, the eight lawmakers under formal investigation by Congress (including Rangel and Waters) were black Democrats. But too many white members of Congress have not only been investigated but been tossed from positions of power, including former Speaker Jim Wright, a Texas Democrat, to make the claim that only black members are targeted for wrongdoing over the House's history.