Rep. Rangel shining example of real ‘change’Written by Tim Higgins | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Since the election, political pundits in all forms of media have been searching to discover the reason why Republicans gained some 60 seats in the House. Those listed are as varied as the political agendas of the partisans spouting them.
On the right, we are told this was a complete repudiation of agenda of President Obama and Speaker Pelosi, strange since it’s the same agenda that swept the President and Democrats into office two years ago. We are also told that it’s a repudiation of health care reform; and while there has certainly been some anger over this bit of odious legislation, the architects of it (Senator Reid and Representative Pelosi) were both returned to office, while many who voted while closing their eyes and holding their noses were turned out. We are told instead that this was a return to the conservative values that made this country great, but looking dispassionately at the results, it cannot go unnoticed that conservative Tea Party candidates in Nevada, Delaware, and probably Alaska, were defeated in favor of those who could be considered more moderate at the least.
On the left, we are told that this was a lack of communication on their part, and that somehow in the hundreds of speeches by the President since he took office and the thousands of those by political candidates leading up to the election, that we simply didn’t get it. We are also told that it was big corporations and special interests buying the elections for the Republicans, and not the spending equaled or exceeded by unions and similar groups for Democrats. And of course we are told that it is a fault of talk radio and the Fox News Channel, which seems equally strange when you count the number of networks lined up on the other side (though perhaps such numbers mean little if few are watching them).
I believe however that this week we may have seen why people rejected those currently in office and sought to replace them, as we saw how those currently in office respect the trust that has been placed in them by voters. For this week saw the ethics trial of Representative Charles Bernard Rangel. Serving since 1971 in NY’s 15th district, Mr. Rangel was convicted by the House Ethics Panel of multiple acts of corruption including using a rent-stabilized apartment (he in fact had four of them) created for use by low income families for campaign activities. The former chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee that writes tax laws was also cited for failure to pay taxes on rental property that he owns in the Dominican Republic. (Perhaps it’s easier to own rental property in the islands if you get cheap rent at home). In a bit of improper political arm twisting, Rep. Rangel apparently also used Congressional letterhead in raising money for a center to be built in his name, in his district.
Rep. Rangel did participate much in his trial, stating that his lawyers had abandoned him. Curious, since it has now been uncovered that perhaps Rangel used over $2 million in PAC and campaign money improperly to pay defense firms; and since he left the hearing accompanied by noted defense attorney Abbe Lowell. These additional discrepancies and potential violations were not included and seemed to have escape the House panel’s notice however.
Tax violations and misappropriations of campaign funds often result serious punishment, including jail time, as do misuse of rent-controlled properties; so you might expect some serious consequences for Rep. Rangel; especially in a Congress recently repudiated, and with an 11% approval rating. You would be wrong however. The House Ethics panel in fact recommended censure, which basically involves a letter of reprimand and being told that he is a ‘bad boy’ while standing in the well of Congress. Of course none of even this meaningless punishment has yet been approved by a vote of the entire House, though such a slap on the wrist should see passage. As for contrition, Rep. Rangel protests that there was no corruption and that he gained nothing from these acts (which I suppose has something to do with the definitions of corruption and gained).
So perhaps if we want to see what the election results were about, we might point to Rep. Rangel as a shining example of the real ‘change’ sought in the recent election. We might take note that voters with little faith in the morality of their representatives have done little more than attempt to ‘throw the bums out’. If Congress cannot manage to keep its own House clean, voters can at least exercise their option to do so every two years.