It isn’t that not all in Congress are singing the praises of Charles Rangel, the flamboyant and gregarious Democratic congressman from New York. It’s the fact that there are members of Congress singing his praises at all that speaks as much about the culture of corruption in Congress as it does about how corrupt Rangel was and is.
Charles Rangel was 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, Blake Chisam, recommended the full committee propose a sentence of censure for the disgraced congressman before 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.
I’m a writer of opinion, and it is my opinion that not only does the punishment not fit the crime, but receiving a sentence of censure, if the full body follows the recommendation, is no punishment at all. If this were you or me, we would need our affairs in order, because we would be on our way to jail for holidays to come.
A couple of points here. First, pursuant to the gravity of the charges he was found guilty of – one charge alone is that he failed to pay taxes for 17 years on Punta Cana, his Dominican Republic luxury beachfront villa that he keeps booked solid year round. With the battery of attorneys, accountants and financial advisers people like Rangel have, are we to honestly believe he had a luxury resort property and somehow forget to pay taxes on it, for 17 years – and no one remembered to remind him? I submit that doesn’t happen even in fantasyland.
Secondly, Obama, Pelosi, et al. have been banging the drum pursuant to how the rich aren’t paying their fair share. Should we assume they had good old Charlie in mind for not paying his fair share, never mind his not paying any taxes at all?
Actor Wesley Snipes, while still free as he appeals, has nonetheless been sentenced to three years in prison for not filing returns. Snipes is a “tax denier,” i.e., a person who believes the IRS has no right to collect taxes. Rangel is the not only a member of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, but he was the chairman of this committee that is responsible for writing the tax code.
Rep. Jo Bonner, R-Ala., said it best 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 surprisingly, Chisam saw it exactly the same way, even though it sounded and appeared that his tongue caught in his throat as he said it was his opinion that Rangel had not intentionally tried to make gain and that he wasn’t trying to use his position as influence.
But that was exactly what he was trying to do. How else are we to interpret his specifically targeting corporations having legislative business before his committee to make donations to the City College of New York building that bears his name?
But Rangel knew all of the sidesteps and maneuvers. Think Bill Clinton on steroids as he questioned the meaning of “is.” Think of Richard Nixon saying, “I’m not a crook.”
Rangel is a lawyer and a conniver – neither of which takes a step without knowing what the next step will be. I submit he needed a way to escape – and the committee, I also argue, needed a way to save face; thus they pretended to do the right thing.
Herein is the rub. To suggest that Rangel, as Chisam said, “brought discredit” upon the House and that his actions served to “undermine the public confidence” we have in the institution is a gross understatement. And for him to receive a punishment of having to stand and listen to his colleagues (most of whom are possibly guilty of similar offenses) say, “Charlie, you’ve been a bad boy,” is a sham and a charade of justice.
Rangel is the face of everything that is bad in politics, from the White House to local government. They place themselves on a pedestal, dictating to us and pontificating about what “we American people want,” when in reality they don’t have a clue.
Even if Rangel were to resign, he would do so with his full pension and all of his ill-gotten gains. His end game now is to try to control the message. He was “sloppy,” but he wasn’t “corrupt.” That’s tantamount to John Dillinger saying he robbed banks but wasn’t a thief.