December 30, 2008


Congressman Charles Rangel’s fate hangs in the balance as a report concerning the Ways and Means Committee chairman is being prepared for release in early January.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she is waiting for the report from the House Ethics Committee before deciding what to do about several allegations against Rangel.

He’s under investigation for allegedly using formal letterhead to solicit donations to a school to be named in his honor; helping one donor’s company keep a tax loophole; having unreported income from a vacation villa; and having several rent-controlled apartments at below market rates, including one set up for his campaign operations in violation of state and local laws.

Democrats will have to decide what to do with Rangel. But it would be a mistake to only focus on punishing Rangel, if he is guilty, and not on the underlying issues that have been raised by this scandal.

We should remember that Rangel is not the first chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee to find himself in political hot water. Rangel could join a cohort of powerful Ways and Means chairmen who have met notorious fates.

The chairmanship is a position that elevates legislators to the nexus of political and private interest group power. The temptation to abuse the position has been overwhelming to some.

Give the government less power, and it will be less of a magnet for corruption. I doubt, though, that Speaker Pelosi will favor that remedy.

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