The Big Question: What to do about Rangel?

Some of the nation's top political commentators, legislators and intellectuals offer their insight into the biggest question burning up the blogosphere today.

Today's question:

Should Rep. Charles Rangel lose his chairmanship?


Joe Madison, host of The Black Eagle radio show, said:

Due process is an important conponent of our legal system. Congressman Rangel should be allowed to defend himself. All evidence and facts should be presented before the Ethics Committee and a ruling should be issued with their recommendations. Congress would do well to remember on March 1, 1967 the U.S. House of Representives voted 307-116 to expel Adam Clayton Powell,Jr. for allegedly misappropriating funds for personal use, only to have the U.S. Supreme Court rule the expulsion unconstitutional.


Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause, said:
 
Finally, the House Ethics Committee did at least part of its job last week when it admonished Rep. Rangel for accepting corporate-sponsored travel to the Caribbean. But the panel still has a long way to go in addressing more serious allegations made against Rep. Rangel.
 
The Ethics Committee said that Rangel should have known that two trips to the Caribbean in 2007 and 2008 were funded by corporations, a violation of House ethics rules. The committee found that two Rangel aides knew the funding source of the trip. Rangel has complained that it is unfair to hold him responsible for what his staff knew. That is unbelievable. Rep. Rangel has been in Congress long enough to know how the process works, and at the end of the day, members of Congress are responsible for their own actions.
 
But the more important questions are still before the Ethics Committee: whether Rep. Rangel violated House rules by failing to pay taxes on rental income from his villa in the Dominican Republic or his use of four rent-subsidized apartments in New York. Unlike how a Caribbean event is underwritten, Rep. Rangel’s violation of ethics rules on these counts would argue more for his removal as Chairman of the committee charged with oversight of our tax system, among other things. The Ethics Committee must investigate as quickly as possible and bring closure to this issue.
 


Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, said:


Last week the House Ethics Committee did finally admonish Charles Rangel (D-NY) for something – taking corporate-sponsored trips to the Caribbean.

Rangel, the man in charge of writing tax laws for the entire country, has not adequately explained how he "forgot" to pay taxes on $75,000 in rental income from his off-shore rental property.  He faces allegations that he improperly used his influence to maintain ownership of highly coveted rent-controlled apartments in Harlem, and misused his congressional office to fundraise for his private Rangel Center by preserving a tax loophole for an oil drilling company in exchange for funding.  In keeping with all of this, Rangel had to amend his financial disclosure reports last year, which doubled his reported wealth.  (He somehow “forgot” about $1 million in assets.) 

Rangel has also apparently resorted to making "campaign contributions" to try to dig his way out of trouble.  According to a September 2009 report by WCBS TV in New York:  “The reigning member of Congress' top tax committee is apparently ‘wrangling’ other politicos to get him out of his own financial and tax troubles...Since ethics probes began last year the 79-year-old congressman has given campaign donations to 119 members of Congress, including three of the five Democrats on the House Ethics Committee who are charged with investigating him.”  So there’s good reason Rangel’s appeared on Judicial Watch’s list of Washington's "Ten Most Wanted Corrupt Politicians” for two years in a row.

Charlie Rangel should not be allowed to remain in Congress, let alone serve as Chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee.  Both Rangel and Speaker Pelosi probably know this.  Speaker Pelosi should at least pretend that honest people run the House. Rather than wait for a hopelessly conflicted Ethics Committee to take action, Speaker Pelosi needs to take responsibility and push Rangel out now, but it seems that Speaker Pelosi cares more about blowback from the corrupted Congressional Black Caucus than running the “most ethical Congress in history.”


John Feehery, Pundits Blog contributor, said:

If consistency and fairness were at all at play, Rangel would lose his chairmanship. But having Charlie around plays actually very well for Republicans, so it isn't quite time to turn up the heat to boiling yet. And, of course, everybody knows that there is a double standard when it comes to Republicans and Democrats. If Charlie Rangel were a Republican, he would have been mentioned in The New York Times editorial page on a daily basis. If I were vulnerable Democrat, I would be pleading with the Speaker to ditch the chairman at every opportunity. But my guess is, because Pelosi isn't particularly beloved by the CBC, she will have to stand by Mr. Rangel.  


Justin Raimondo, editorial director of Antiwar.com, said:

If I failed to pay my taxes, I would probably lose my freedom — but we have a different standard for the political class that rules Washington, now don't we?

If I was caught with three rent-controlled apartments, handed over to me by a developer who no doubt wanted political favors in exchange, one can only imagine the consequences. In Charlie's case, there will be no consequences.

No wonder real estate prices are zooming upward in one and only one region of the country — Washington, D.C., and environs. The political class is feeding at the public trough, and showing the table manners of a pig.

Lose his chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Committee? He should be in jail. Period. Of course, that will never happen. Which just goes to show how our political class is playing Marie Antoinette — just before the Revolution ...



Alan Abramowitz, professor of political science at Emory University, said:

Yes. At least until the current investigations have been completed. 



Ron Walters,
professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland, said:

No. These trips are common among members of Congress. For example, a study by the Center for Public Integrity, Northwestern University’s Medill News Service and American Public Media, found that between 2000 and 2005, there were 23,000 such trips worth $50 million to such exotic places as Paris, Rome, Hawaii and others by some senior members of Congress with apparently little rebuke by their colleagues. The fact that they are common doesn’t make them right, but this was the period of Republican leadership. So don’t blame me for being suspicious of the view that now Charlie Rangel, a powerful African American Democratic politician, should now become the poster-boy punishment for this practice. In fact, the ethics committee just released a report exonerating seven members of the House, among whom was the deceased John Murtha (D-Pa.), chairman of the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, who sponsored an earmark for the Paul Magliocchetti & Associates corporation (PMA Group), several of whose members were former Appropriations Committee staffers. Moreover, the ethics committee seems to have a racial hang-up since most of the remaining members under scrutiny were African Americans. Rangel should get a mild rebuke to remind him that the practice is wrong, but he should and probably will continue to serve as chairman of Ways and Means.



A. B. Stoddard, associate editor and columnist, said:

House Democrats continue to rally behind embattled Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, for one reason: They fear setting a precedent that could remove chairmen from their posts any time an ethics charge is filed against them. That is the sole reason you see almost every Democrat falling into line on votes against Rangel that Republicans have repeatedly brought to the House floor.
 
Rangel knows his days are numbered — either in his congressional seat or in his job as chairman — and even if he manages to hang on and win reelection, he knows his ethical baggage he will cost Democrats independent voters in this fall's midterm elections. Democrats, finding it difficult to knock him from his perch, are silently hoping he does the right thing and step down. But so far, Rangel isn't budging. His reaction to last week's finding by the House ethics committee was nothing short of defiant.
 
It wasn't easy for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who pledged the most ethical Congress in history, to claim on television this weekend that Rangel's attendance on a corporate-sponsored trip didn't "jeopardize the country." Neither did many of the things corrupt Republicans did and Democrats successfully campaigned against in 2006. The list of potential wrongdoing by Rangel is far worse than taking the trip he and numerous other members took — he is accused of failing to pay taxes, failing to report assets and rental income, using his rent-controlled apartments in Harlem for campaign office space, and using his congressional office to raise funds for a school at City College in New York named after him.
 
If the ethics panel concludes Rangel has violated House rules in any of these cases, he is gone. Already the hour is late. Democrats should pressure him now to make this his decision.
 

Hal Lewis, professor of Physics at UC Santa Barbara, said:

At the very least.


Peter Navarro, professor of economics and public policy at UC Irvine, said:

If the test is a normative one of “should,” then Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi should lose their posts for running the Democratic Congress in such an incompetent manner and, yes, Rangel ought to be ousted for junketeering. But “should” is not a language spoken in the Congress.  What “is” is that nothing will change until the Republican tsunami of 2010.

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