Throw the Bum Rangel Out!

How can we tolerate open corruption in Congress?

The basics of Rep. Rangel's illegal activities were known in lurid detail back in 2008:

  • He didn't report rental income from a villa in the Dominican Republic which he'd owned since 1988; he evaded paying his income taxes for twenty years.
  • He had four rent controlled apartments in New York City.  The law states that no individual may have more than one, and his income is high enough that he's not entitled to any rent-controlled apartment at all.
  • Despite representing a congressional district in New York City, Mr. Rangel claimed that his Washington dwelling was his primary residence which saved him even more taxes.  That made his occupying a rent-controlled apartment unarguably illegal - it wasn't his primary residence.  The Constitution states that "No Person shall be a Representative... who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen," by which his D.C. "primary residence" should prevent him from being a representative from anywhere at all, since D.C. is not a state.
  • He was later revealed to have failed to list assets on his financial disclosure form and to have illegally solicited contributions from businesses whose affairs were being considered by the House taxation committee of which he was chairman.

All this was somewhat embarrassing to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.  She and the Democrats had campaigned for a Democratic majority in the House on a promise to clean up the Republican's "culture of corruption" by "draining the swamp;" instead, it became increasingly clear that they merely redirected its flow to their friends instead of the Republicans' friends.

Ms. Pelosi had an excellent point about Republican corruption, to be sure.  Jack Abrahamoff and Tom DeLay, both Republicans, have been convicted of criminal violations of state or federal laws which were intended to fight political corruption.  Ample evidence of corruption by both Democrats and Republicans suggests that bipartisanship holds full sway at least in the area of corruption - both parties want to steal our money.

You'd think that Ms. Pelosi would want to demonstrate her swamp-draining credentials by throwing the book at Rep. Rangel, but that did not come to pass.  Despite twenty years of cheating on his income taxes, Rep. Rangel held on as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, which writes tax legislation, until March, 2010, two years after the scandal broke.

He was finally found guilty of violating the House ethics rules, such as they are, in November 2010, after he had once again been re-elected to his House seat from a state in which, his D.C. tax filings claim, he is not a primary resident.  And they say Congressmen are supposed to swear allegiance to the Constitution!

The Swamp is Alive and Well

Back when President Obama was trying to appoint Tom Daschle to head his efforts to get Obamacare passed, it turned out that Mr. Daschle had cheated on his income taxes, just like our Secretary of the Treasury "Turbo Tax Timmy" Geithner.  Mr Obama realized that he had a severe public relations problem; the Times' "quote for the day" for Feb. 4, 2009, was:

I've got to own up to my mistake, which is that ultimately it's important for this administration to send a message that there aren't two sets of rules.  You know, one for prominent people and one for ordinary folks who have to pay their taxes. [emphasis added]

  - President Barack Hussein Obama

Mr. Obama said that he'd learned that it was important for government officials to convince people that there aren't two sets of rules, a relaxed set of rules for the elite where breaking the law is a justifiable "mistake" and rules for the rest of us where breaking the law means jail.  Confucius pointed this out 2,500 years ago, but the House Ethics Committee seems to be determined to reinforce our perception that there are two sets of laws, just as Mr. Obama said.  The New York Times expressed contempt for the House ethics process:

The evidence proved that Mr. Rangel, a New York City Democrat, repeatedly and arrogantly cut ethical corners, solicited favors and failed to pay his taxes. He still might have skated if he hadn’t made a show of proclaiming innocence and demanding an investigation, finally rousing the usually somnolent ethics committee...

Other records released undercut Mr. Rangel’s claim that he had been unaware that he had earned rental income from his Dominican villa: in one letter he instructed the Punta Cana Yacht club, which managed the villa, to deposit the money in his personal bank account. [emphasis added]

The Times feels that if Rangel had expressed at least a little regret, he might have gotten off scot-free.  Now that's a rousing endorsement of the honesty and probity of our elected officials!  They're hoping that the Tea Party activists, normally the Times' poster children for all that is bad and immature, will make themselves useful and demand that the ethics panel be strengthened.

Throw the Bum Out!

What of Rangel's fate?  After the ethics committee found the charges against him to be "uncontested," the Times reported:

If he is found guilty on any of the charges, the entire ethics committee would deliberate on a suitable punishment, which ethics experts say would most likely be a letter of reprimand or a formal censure. While the committee has the power to expel, that has happened only rarely and is considered highly unlikely.

Even then the committee treated him lightly.  The House rules forbid members from accepting gifts worth more than $50, yet the committee said nothing about his living in multiple rent-controlled apartments which saves him hundreds of dollars per month.  His income is too high for him to have any rent-controlled apartments at all, what is this if not a gift?

Although the committee has found him guilty of violating House rules, it is "highly unlikely" that he will be thrown out of the House.  Why not?  What's their excuse for not kicking him out?

Representative G. K. Butterfield, Democrat of North Carolina, asked the committee’s chief counsel, R. Blake Chisam, whether any of Mr. Rangel’s alleged misdeeds had brought him financial gain.

"Do I believe, based on this record, that Congressman Rangel took steps to enrich himself based on his position in Congress?" Mr. Chisam replied. "I do not," he said, then added that Mr. Rangel was "at least sloppy in his personal finances."

What planet do these people inhabit?  Mr. Rangel instructed the yacht club to deposit ill-gotten money in his personal bank account, yet he wasn't breaking laws for personal gain?  He has four rent-controlled apartments in the same New York building and he's not abusing his position as a member of Congress?  We're supposed to assume that the landlord never got any favors from Rep. Rangel and let him have a huge break on apartment rent out of the goodness of his heart?

We're suposed to believe that since he wasn't breaking all those rules for personal gain, censure is enough?

Nuts!  Leona Helmsley went to jail for not paying income tax.  Rangel's a crook; leaving him in office won't help anyone believe in the honesty of our government officials.

Throw the bum out of office and into prison, where he can serve a very lengthy sentence.  He's spent 39 years in the People's House ripping off the People; he should spend the next 39 years, if he has that many, in the Big House just like you or I would if we stole that much from the IRS.

Will Offensicht is a staff writer for and an internationally published author by a different name.  Read other articles by Will Offensicht or other articles on Partisanship.
Reader Comments

Unfortunately, the 'main-stream media' does the blocking for the
Democrats. Abrahhamoff, DeLey and presumably Hemsley; all Republicans.
Rangel is a Black Democrat. Good luck.

December 1, 2010 12:25 PM

Unfortunately, the 'main-stream media' does the blocking for the
Democrats. Abrahhamoff, DeLay and presumably Hemsley; all Republicans.
Rangel is a Black Democrat. Good luck.

December 1, 2010 12:27 PM

It shouldn't matter whether Mr Rangel is Republican, Democratic, Libertarian or Tea Party. Our Constitution is supposed to give us equality under the law irregardless of religion or the color of our skin. He has been found guilty of abusing his office, lying to the I.R.S., and defying the laws of his home state, New York. Mr. Rangel ought to be expelled from Congress and charges brought against him by the I.R.S. and the State of New York. Where are you Andrew Cuomo?

December 2, 2010 10:07 AM

@pgreer you were right - he got off free except for a bit of embarrassment. They moved to reduce the punishment, not to increase it!!

The House of Representatives censured veteran Democrat Charles Rangel for ethics violations on Thursday, forcing the former chief tax writer to face a humiliating public rebuke before his colleagues.

Under terms of the censure, Rangel was required to stand in the front of the House chamber as Speaker Nancy Pelosi outlined his misconduct. Rangel stood calmly facing Pelosi, arms folded, as she read a brief statement.

The New York congressman apologized but told the House he did not deserve censure. He said later that politics drove the House's decision more than facts.

"The vote for censure was a very, very, very political vote," he told reporters afterward. "There's no evidence that I did anything to enrich myself or that I did anything corrupt."

The censure, the most severe form of House punishment available short of expulsion, was approved on an overwhelming 333-79 vote. It was the 23rd House censure and the first in 27 years.

The House Ethics Committee convicted Rangel last month of 11 House rules violations, including concealing assets, failing to pay taxes on his beach villa in the Dominican Republic and misusing his office to raise money for a public policy center that bears his name.

Rangel asked his colleagues to back a reduced punishment of a written reprimand, which would not have required a public rebuke. He said censure was reserved for the worst forms of corruption and his violations did not meet that standard.

"I have made serious mistakes," Rangel told House members before the vote. "I brought it on myself, but I still believe that this body has to be guided by fairness."

The House rejected an amendment to reduce the punishment to reprimand by 267-146.

The ethics investigation forced the 80-year-old Rangel to give up the chairmanship of the powerful tax-writing Ways and Means Committee earlier this year and embarrassed Democrats who had promised to run a clean Congress.

December 3, 2010 10:53 AM
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