The Democrats’ main tax-writing congressman and for years head of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, Charlie Rangel (D-NY), finally had to accept the terrible punishment for his ways and means of getting money by being the first congressman censured in about thirty years. For the record, as the Congressional Ethics Committee sees it, there has been just one unethical politician in their ranks in the past thirty years. Good to know.
Rangel was found guilty on eleven ethics charges, or as they call them in D.C., “fundraising.” Congress has gotten so corrupt that, when it meets, a lookout needs to be posted at the door. I am also starting to believe that some congressmen are elected by their districts just to get them out of the area for most of the year.
So what happens to yet another tax cheat, a man who for 17 years failed to pay taxes on rental income received? I am sure, like us, he will be handcuffed and taken straight to prison, right?
It turns out they just “censured” the defiant Harlem Democrat, which I think just involves making him stand in front of Nancy Pelosi in the well of the House while she reads him a letter of reprimand. While I can see that having to be around Nancy Pelosi would be unpleasant, a Democrat usually has to pay a $2,500 “donation” just to have access to her.
Most would say that even the worst punishment short of expulsion, censure, is just a slap on the wrist. It probably didn’t hurt Rangel at all since his wrist is protected by that cookie jar stuck to his hand. But if you do not think censure was harsh enough, I am told some of the font in his letter of reprimand was in bold print and there were liberal uses of the exclamation point. In her harshly worded letter, Nanny Pelosi avoided the appearance of racism by eschewing the traditional Arial Black font in favor of the sterner Times New Roman, since that seems to be the direction in which our country is heading.
Rangel also was also found guilty of accepting gifts on the side. I think that’s an unfair charge. If our elected officials can’t accept expensive gifts from donors who want things, how in the world are they supposed to know how to vote?
The members of the Congressional Black Caucus who defended Rangel pointed out that he has yet to be convicted. By their logic, you cannot get convicted until you have been convicted, which of course makes ever getting convicted impossible. It is a derivation of the O.J. defense, “If the glove does not fit, you must acquit.” In modern jurisprudence, if your attorney can fashion a pithy rhyme, you are immediately found not guilty. Limerick writers are being reemployed writing closing statements for trial lawyers.
In 1990, esteemed Democrat Barney Frank received the slightly lesser punishment of a “reprimand” for, and I am not making this up, “failure to prevent his house from being used for prostitution by third parties.” You know how those third parties can get in your house and turn it into a gay bordello. Don’t you just hate it when that happens to your house?
For you students of history reading this column, the last time the House censured two of its own was when Reps. Gerry Studds (yes his real name) and Dan Crane were punished for having sex with 17-year-old House pages. They tried to defend themselves by saying it was all part of their plan to save tax dollars by not having to buy bookmarks; instead they would just bend over a page.
I really used to like Charlie Rangel until all this happened. He seems like a likable guy. He was a decorated Korean War veteran and a real character. But during the hearings he was unrepentant and said he was not going to blame anyone. Then he directly blamed his staff and his accountant for the mess and threw them under the bus. I suppose the medal he won in Korea was for throwing a lower-ranking soldier onto a grenade in order to save himself.
Maybe Charlie Rangel is not a bad guy. Maybe he just fell in with the wrong crowd: Congress.
Ron Hart is a syndicated libertarian op-ed humorist, author and TV/radio commentator. Email Ron@RonaldHart.com or visit: RonaldHart.com