"Most Ethical Congress In History"?

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on August 28, 2009

Why is Charlie Rangel allowed to keep his chairmanship of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee–which, in the event you didn’t know it, plays a decisive role in crafting health care legislation–when his continued presence on the committee makes a mockery of Nancy Pelosi’s claim to keep things on the up and up in Congress?

Rep. Charles Rangel failed to report as much as $1.3 million in outside income — including up to $1 million for a Harlem building sale — on financial-disclosure forms he filed between 2002 and 2006, according to newly amended records.

The documents also show the embattled chairman of the Ways and Means Committee — who is being probed by the House Ethics Committee — failed to reveal a staggering $3 million in various business transactions over the same period.

This week, Rangel filed drastically revised financial-disclosure forms reflecting new, higher amounts of outside income and numerous additional business deals that had not been reported when the reports were originally filed.


Among other issues, Mr. Rangel is currently under investigation regarding his use of four rent-stabilized apartments at New York City’s tony Lenox Terrace and soliciting donations with his official letterhead for the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at City College of New York, which was itself built with a $1.9 million earmark. Yet another part of the probe is his failure to report $75,000 in income from a rental villa at the beachfront Punta Cana Yacht Club, in the Dominican Republic.

Mr. Rangel blamed that last one on the language barrier because he doesn’t speak Spanish. We can only imagine what language he speaks with his accountants and tax attorneys.

At the very least, one has to believe that there is enough evidence here to merit Rangel temporarily stepping aside during an Ethics Committee investigation. But he is not even being required to do that. At this point, I shudder to think what has to happen before Rangel is even forced to lose a smidgen of power.

One thing is clear: Nancy Pelosi’s promise to bring ethics back has not bee fulfilled in the slightest. Time to call her and the House Democratic leadership on that failing.

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