As if congressional Democrats didn’t face enough of an uphill battle this coming November the inquiry into ethical violations on the part of Congressman Charlie Rangel is sure to exacerbate their already tenuous grip on power. In an attempt to maintain control of the House and Senate congressional Democrats have had to contend with both voter discontent and now scrutiny into the actions of one of its most senior members. This combination may prove too much for the Democratic leadership to overcome.
The ethics inquiry into Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) should come as no surprise to congressional watchers. Not because of the individual to whom the investigation is directed but rather because the process of uncovering and probing alleged misdeeds within congress has become commonplace. This latest incident of congressional malfeasance only underscores the almost comical nature of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s declaration that the new Democratic leadership would preside over the “most honest, most open and most ethical Congress in history.”
At the center of the Rangel scandal are a number of indiscretions that presumably emanate more from an indifference to rules than from a legitimate oversight of the edicts that direct appropriate conduct on the part of members of congress. Rangel has been variously accused of using rent-stabilized apartments in Manhattan as campaign offices, an act that would constitute an illegal campaign contribution on the part of the landlord; and the utilization of Congressional letterhead to elicit donations for the Charles B. Rangel School of Public Service at CCNY, the use of such letterhead being prohibited under House rules.
The discovery of a home owned by Rangel located in the Dominican Republic for which he purportedly received over $75,000 in rent but had failed to report, disclose, or pay taxes on has added to the litany of indictments being cast in his direction. If these accusations alone weren’t enough to induce deep concern on the part of an American public already skeptical of its congressional representatives then perhaps the added claim that Rangel pursued tax breaks for Nabors Industries while simultaneously soliciting large donations from its CEO will suffice.
One may expect such an array of allegations to mark the death knell of a politician’s career; however, an interesting phenomenon continues to distinguish the American electoral process and concomitantly transcend conventional wisdom. Namely, while congressional approval rates continue to sink to historic lows the reelection rate among incumbents of both chambers of congress remains astonishingly high. Although only 11 percent of Americans approve of the job congress is doing nearly 95 percent of House incumbents were reelected in 2008. Perhaps this phenomenon supports the notion that most Americans “hate congress…but love their congressman.”
After achieving control of the House in 2006, Nancy Pelosi declared that, “The American people voted to restore integrity and honesty in Washington, D.C.” Rather than fulfilling her promise to restore integrity and honesty to congress, Speaker Pelosi and the Democratic leadership have presided over a congress deeply unpopular with the electorate and stricken by an unwavering commitment to pursue an agenda inconsistent with the will of the people.
The litany of ethical and legal indiscretions alleged to have been committed by Rep. Rangel should portend the demise of his long and distinguished career; however, such an event will require that the electorate begin to demand more integrity and accountability from their representatives. The increasingly unpopular Democratic congress and the scrutiny onto one of its most senior members may in fact augur such a reality this coming November.
Scott G. Erickson is an advocate of conservative, principled solutions to the issues facing America. He has worked to advance conservative priorities through coalition building and is an active participant in myriad organizations seeking to restore the foundational principles of America. A committed public servant, he has worked in the field of law enforcement for the past decade and holds both his B.S. and M.S. in Criminal Justice Studies. He resides in the San Francisco Bay Area.