Charles Rangel has been found guilty of 11 of the 13 charges filed against him, with two of the charges having been rolled into one. As punishment for his crimes/violations, the chief counsel of the House ethics committee, Blake Chisam, recommended a sentence of censure for the disgraced congressman to the full House, despite Rangel’s protestations for “a drop of fairness and mercy” in a prepared statement read prior to the start of the hearing.
Not only does the punishment not fit the crime, it is in fact no punishment at all.
According to AOL News:
Censure is not specifically mentioned in the Constitution — it falls under Congress’ right to adopt resolutions. … Censure is stronger than a rebuke, but not as strong as an expulsion. It is a formal, open reprimand given to a member of Congress for going against its standards of ethics and behavior.
In other words, Rangel must stand in the well of Congress and have the members tell him he behaved poorly. No, really.
Pursuant to the gravity of the charges he was found guilty of, this is beyond nonsense. One charge alone is that Rangel failed to pay taxes for 17 years on Punta Cana, his Dominican luxury beachfront villa that he keeps booked solid year round. With the battery of attorneys, accountants, and financial advisors that people like Rangel have, are we to honestly believe he had a luxury resort property and somehow forget to pay taxes on it, and no one remembered to remind him … for 17 years?
Regarding Obama, Pelosi, et al. banging the drum regarding how the rich aren’t paying their fair share, should we assume they had good old Charlie in mind?
Rep. Jo Bonner, R-AL, was concise in his opening statement to the committee:
For the small business woman who didn’t pay her taxes for 17 years and had the IRS breathing down her back, [we] can only imagine how she would have liked to have the chance to help write the tax code of this country and make it less burdensome and simpler for everyone else.
Rangel’s repeated fallback was that he was only guilty of “sloppy bookkeeping and disorganization.” Not altogether surprisingly, Chisam saw it exactly the same way — even though it sounded as if his tongue caught in his throat as he said it was his opinion that Rangel had not intentionally tried to make gains or use his position as influence.
Of course, that was exactly what he was trying to do. How else are we to interpret his targeting corporations having legislative business before his committee to make donations to a City College of New York building that bears his name? Rangel is about to get what appears to be a complete pass for actions that, as I have previously written, were they committed by you or me, we would be getting our affairs in order prior to a long jail sentence.
To suggest that Rangel “brought discredit” upon the House and that his actions served to “undermine the public confidence” we have in the institution, for him to receive a punishment of having to stand and listen to his colleagues (most of whom are possibly guilty of similar offenses) denigrate him? Its a public charade. We pay for the campaigns of the elected and we pay for their salaries and perks while they are in office. We pay their pensions. Asking them to behave with decorum and integrity, and to deliver justice to one of their own, is not too much to ask.
Even if Rangel were to resign, he would keep his full pension and all his ill-gotten gains. This episode is the face of everything awful in U.S. politics, from the White House to local government.