If the Democrats are extremely unlucky, former House Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel is about to become the poster child for everything that is wrong with Washington.
The bipartisan House Ethics Committee earlier this week charged Rangel, the powerful New York Democrat and longtime supporter of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, with 13 separate ethics violations in a 40-page long "Statement of Alleged Violation."
Rangel says he’s done nothing wrong and expects he will be vindicated but the committee’s report seems to argue the other way.
The committee is charging that Rangel violated the letter and spirit of the rules of the House and acted in ways that reflected “discredibility on the House” and that he engaged, among other things, in conduct that:
All in all it amounts to a pretty serious bill of goods. The charges themselves are grouped into four essential areas.
First, that he solicited money for his nonprofit “Rangel Center for Public Service” from people doing business before his committee.
Second, that he repeatedly filed inaccurate and misleading financial-disclosure statements.
Third, that he used for campaign purposes a New York City rent-controlled apartment that was only supposed to be used as a residence.
And, fourth, that he failed to report and pay taxes on rental income he received from a vacation property he owns in the Dominican Republic--which is something of an irony considering all the years he spent on the House committee that writes U.S. tax laws.
How did Congress react to all of these misdeeds--and to the possibility that the charges will actually lead to a trial? Well according to the New York Post, by recommending pretrial that Rangel receive an official reprimand.
“The House ethics committee recommended that Rep. Charlie Rangel be reprimanded, which is the least severe punishment, according to a new report,” the Post reported Friday, identifying Texas Democrat Gene Green, who chairs the ethics panel, as the source of the disclosure. [See who supports Green.]
A reprimand is among the least serious and least consequential sanctions the committee can impose and it hardly, as Speaker Pelosi promised to do when the Democrats were still in the minority, helps to drain the swamp.
Rangel’s alleged misdeeds stem from exactly the kinds of abuses of power that cost the Republicans their majority in 2006 and which have sent the Tea Party movement into the streets demanding change. The way the congressional schedule is currently set, if the Rangel case goes to trial it will be in the midst of the fall campaign season at a time when Republican and Independent-leaning likely voters are enthusiastic about making changes in Washington. And Democrats, according to the latest polls, are looking more and more like they’ll be staying home.