December 30, 2008

CHARLES RANGEL UPDATE: Newshounds should stay on Rangel’s scent.

With a new president coming to the White House and an expanded Democratic congressional majority whose leaders are eager to enact lengthy lists of proposals, it would be easy to forget the Rangel scandals. Despite calls from fellow lawmakers and news outlets, including this one, Rangel hasn’t resigned from his chairmanship, much less from Congress. So it is appropriate to review what has been reported thus far. Among the most serious revelations are these:

* Rangel used official House stationery to seek contributions to the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at City College of New York. House rules forbid use of official stationery for such appeals.
* Rangel led a successful congressional effort to protect a tax break that benefited a oil company after the firm’s chief executive pledged a $1 million contribution to the Rangel Center at City College.
* Rangel failed to properly report income he received from a vacation property in the Dominican Republic.
* Rangel failed to comply with state law regarding his ownership of four rent-controlled apartments in New York City.
* Rangel improperly claimed a tax deduction for a primary residence in D.C., despite also claiming his primary residence back home in his New York congressional district.
* Rangel routed $80,000 from his campaign committee treasury to his son for virtually no work on a web site.

Rangel of course has denied all wrong-doing and claimed that many of the problems uncovered by the media were either a product of innocent confusion on his part or mistakes by others preparing his official documents. Until only a few years ago, a congressman enduring the kind of attention that has focused this year on Rangel might actually have reasonably hoped to survive, once the heat was off. But Allison points out another critically important factor in Rangel’s media coverage – much of it was made possible by online resources such as the congressional financial disclosure forms archive maintained by the Center for Responsive Politics. Rangel would do well to ponder the prospect of further revelations, thanks to such online resources. The window of opportunity for a “clean” resignation is narrowing by the day.

Indeed.

Meanwhile, here’s a new headline: Rangel Pays Parking Tickets With Campaign Funds. “Regardless of any potential legal issues, the congressman is paying parking tickets with other people’s money.” Other people’s money — it’s pretty much a lifestyle!