Today the House Ethics Committee recommended “censure” for Charlie Rangel, the long serving congressman and former chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. Senator Rangel is complaining this is too severe, but in fact all this represents is a slap on the wrist and is not even close to what he deserves for what he has done.
I don’t generally wish people ill will, and I find Mr. Rangel to be a likeable person. But he has committed crimes, and not only should he be forced to resign his seat in the House, and face criminal charges. While Mr. Rangel, the press, the democrats, and republicans (who likely fear exposure of their own violations) downplay the seriousness, a reading of the charges shows the improper actions he took.
These include (there are more than those listed below) in summary the following acts, some of which if you or I committed them we would surely go to jail:
1. Failure to pay taxes on rental income over a decade on an investment property. He calls this “sloppy” financial management. What would the IRS call it for us? Tax evasion.
2. Falsifying a lease on a rent controlled apartment which was to be used for “residential purposes only” but which he used in his campaign for Congress and which he never used for living purposes. He was also on the rental company’s “special handling list” as a member of Congress, the benefits of which were never identified, except that the congressman met several times with the rental company to assist them in planning and approval of new real estate development projects, clearly an effort to leverage his position in Congress, and I’m sure he helped them. In our world we call this fraud.
3. The “shakedown” of corporations as he solicited donations for the Charles B. Rangel Center at CCNY. He asked for, and in many cases received, millions of dollars in donations from corporations who had or would at some point have legislation before the Congress, obviously against House rules. Worse yet, he sent these solicitations on Congressional letterhead, clearly for purposes of putting a heavy hand on the backs of these companies as if to say “donate or watch what we do to your legislation”. In civilian terms we call this bribery or blackmail or racketeering.
4. Procuring 10’s of millions of dollars in earmarks, funded by the taxpayers, to pay for much of the Charles B. Rangel Center at CCNY. In civilian terms we call this theft, in Congressional terms we call this business as usual.
It was interesting to listen to Congressman Rangel today as he complained about his acts being simple sloppiness and not worthy of censure. And he meant it. Not worthy of censure? You are right, they are worthy of prison! This reveals not only how out of touch he is with reality and the world in which we all live, but is likely just an example of the way too many of our Senators and Congressmen think. These are the people we must throw out of office (and in Rangel’s case, send to jail) and replace them with people who respect the rule of law, don’t seek special privileges, and who have lived most of their professional lives in the real world (i.e. not in Washington, DC).