The Circus of an Ethics Investigation

I have been waiting years for the ethics trial of Charlie Rangel….and I have to tell you the subcommittee proceedings today did not disappointment.   I have such a negative reaction to Congressman Rangel because while he was serving as Chair of the House Ways & Means Committee (the Committee that determines tax policy and federal spending policy) he is accused of NUMEROUS violations involving money policy!  How can the Chair of the Ways & Means Committee:

  • fail to disclose hundreds of thousands of dollars of income and assets on financial disclosure forms;
  • illegally maintain multiple rent-stabilized apartments in New York;  
  • and fail to pay income taxes on a villa in the Dominican Republic.

And yes, filing your taxes each year is hard and confusing so I understand if you make a mistake..but he repeatedly made the same mistake on his tax forms for 9 years!  Many of these mistakes were repeated  even AFTER his attention was brought to these “omissions.”.  And it just so happens he attempted to claim interest on his Villa in the Dominican Republic..after his interest debt had been forgiven.   He REPEATEDLY forgot to pay his income taxes on his Dominican Republic villa.

The failure to pay taxes was brought to light 2 years ago. It took 18 months for Congressional leadership to strip him of his Chairmanship.  It took 2 years to get him to an Ethics trail. 

I don’t think he is corrupt, but I believe he thinks the laws don’t apply to him.  I find it completely hypocritical to be Chair of Ways & Means and forget to pay taxes.  I would rather the man be censored for indiscretions in an airport bathroom or for sexually harassing his staff. 

There were two parts of today’s Trial that I found enjoyable.  One, was when the hearing started the Chairwoman (Lofgren) said that the matter should be conducted “with the dignity and decorum befitting any proceeding before the House of Representatives.”   I had to laugh…just looking back on this year that would include the decorum and dignity that invited Steven Colbert to testify and request his colonoscopy test results be submitted for the record.  I think there is a high chance we can meet that low bar of dignity and decorum Madam Chairwoman.

The Second part I loved, was watching Mr. Rangel’s indignant walk out of the Hearing Room.  It was a circus.  On one hand, I have a soft spot for the man because I think at 80, he might be losing his mind a little.  On the other hand, he still thinks he is above it all.  In August on the House floor he demanded a speedy trial and his right to tell his side of the story.  Today, we got to see his side of the story as he walked out of the hearing.  BTW – did I mention he did not contest any of the 500+ affidavits submitted for the record.

Article I, Section 5, Clause 2 of the Constitution allows the House of Representatives to “discipline” its own members.  This was created to maintain the institutional integrity of the House.  Unfortunately, Congress Rangel is probably going to walk away with nothing more than a slap on the wrist..or a formal reprimand as the House Ethics Committee will call it.  What does that mean? Not much.  He may not even have to be present when they reprimand him!  They can fine him, take away his leadership (which was already done..but only as a result of GREAT Pressure for a LONG time.)

 We wonder why the average citizen has so much disdain for Congress…even Member of Congress walk all over the legislative arm of the United States.  Perhaps they will surprise me, but I doubt it.

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