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Monday, April 22, 2013

Charlie Rangel Sues To Overturn Congressional Censure (Not Because He's Innocent)

Charlie Rangel (D-NY) still lives in a dream world where he is entitled to more than the rest of us. According to the Hill, Rangel is suing Speaker John Boehner and six other lawmakers, charging that they mishandled the Ethics investigation that led to his public censure in late 2010. Lets forget for a moment that Nancy Pelosi was the Speaker of the House when Charlie Rangel was censured (or the fact that if it was anyone else they would have been tossed out of congress for the violations).
In a complaint filed Monday in federal court in Washington D.C., Rangel claims the Ethics Committee that investigated his alleged wrongdoing is guilty of "numerous flagrant, knowing and intentional violations" of his due process rights.

House members who approved his censure were "knowingly deceived" by the committee leaders – including then-Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and ranking member Jo Bonner (R-Ala.) – into thinking that the probe "had been conducted in accordance with procedural rules and the protection of [Rangel's] constitutional rights," the complaint adds.

The other lawmakers named in the suit are Reps. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), Michael Conaway (R-Texas), Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) and Gregg Harper (R-Miss.). Conaway and Dent were also members of the Ethics Committee behind the investigation.
Notice that missing from the complaint was any contention that Rangel was innocent.
The complaint cites several emails to Lofgren from R. Blake Chisam, the former chief counsel of the ethics panel – then known as the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct – claiming that two staff attorneys conducting the Rangel investigation withheld information and broke other rules that might have led to a different verdict.

“The suppressed material would probably have led to a different outcome,” the complaint said.

In one of the emails, Chisam cited "significant errors" by the two staffers – Deputy Chief Counsel C. Morgan Kim and Counsel Stacey Sovereign – which he feared could "cast doubt about the legitimacy of the Committee's proceedings." Among those infractions, Chisam cited "impermissible … communication with Republican staff and Members of the Committee."
Let's look at some of Rangel's "record";

  • He admitted a failure to report $75 thousand in taxes on a vacation property
  • He was discovered taking a tax break for people whose primary residence was in Washington DC, but if his primary residence was in DC he couldn't be congressman representing NYC. And besides, he was occupying four rent controlled controlled apartments in New York, the rule is you don't qualify for rent control unless the apartment is your primary residence. That is why he got in trouble for using one of the apartments as his office.
  • He misused his congressional office to fund raise for his private Rangel Center by preserving a tax loophole for an oil drilling company in exchange for funding
  • Once the ethics investigation began Rangel gave campaign donations to 119 members of Congress, including three of the five Democrats on the House Ethics Committee who are charged with investigating him
Then there is the matter of his financial disclosure form. Lets just say it had some mistakes also:

And there was more. Rangel was censured on the House floor in December 2010 after the ethics panel found him guilty of 11 charges related to his conduct outside the Capitol. The vote against him was a lopsided 333-79 (that might have been the last bi-partisan vote in the House).

Rangel should consider himself a very lucky man, after all people like Martha Stewart and Scooter Libby were thrown in jail for doing much less.  At the very least he should have been thrown out of congress.  But all Rangel got was a public censure--feeding the man's sense of entitlement. 

Instead of answering the suit, the ethics committee should turn all of their evidence over to a DA.  Charlie Rangel does not deserve a re-hearing of his ethics case, he deserves an opportunity to make the traditional "perp walk."

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