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Sunday, September 6, 2009

Why Pelosi is Supporting Charlie Rangel

Remember when Nancy Pelosi made that famous promise? "This will be the most ethical congress ever."   Despite all the evidence that Rangel should be taking a "perp walk" rather than the position of Chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. Pelosi says she is waiting for the House Ethics Committee to complete its wide-ranging investigation before she makes a decision about Rangel
  • In September he admitted a failure to report $75 thousand in taxes.
  • 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.
  • In May, the  House Ways and Means Chair found himself in a new ethics investigation, this time "pay-for-play".  The allegation is that Rangel helped preserve a lucrative tax loophole for an Oil Company, and in turn the Oil Company donated a Million Dollars to the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service. Maybe it was for research on how people in Congress find way to service themselves.
  • The end of June saw a new scandal as  the Ethics Committee launched an investigation of the NY Congressman, this one  revolving around a Caribbean boondoggle.
Then there is the matter of his financial disclosure form. Lets just say it had some mistakes also:

And of course that little fact that Congressman Rangel gave campaign donations to three of the Democrats on the Congressional Ethics committee investigating him. Which may be purely innocent, but it certainly smells rancid.

Why is Pelosi supporting Charlie Rangel and ignoring the volume of evidence against him?  Its not because of any long standing friendship of loyalty, its because she needs to protect her own political butt:

  • Stripping the Harlem Democrat of his chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Committee would force Pelosi to make a series of unpalatable decisions about Rangel’s successor that would create a ruckus in the Democratic caucus.
  • It would also infuriate the Congressional Black Caucus, which is still sore over Pelosi’s decision to strip committees from former Louisiana Rep. Bill Jefferson – even after Jefferson had been found with a wad of tainted cash in his kitchen. “Unless they find $90,000 in his freezer, like they did with Jefferson, we’re going to wait [for the outcome of a House ethics probe],” said a Democratic aide familiar with Pelosi’s thinking on the matter.
  • Staffers say the speaker has been so focused on the health care battle that she simply hasn’t devoted much time to Rangel’s recent troubles – and there’s no push among House Democrats to heed the fire-Rangel cries of Republicans, the New York Times, Washington Post and Buffalo News.
“She hasn’t even spoken to the congressman about this latest episode,” said a close Rangel associate, referring to recent published reports that the 78-year-old Rangel underreported his assets by hundreds of thousands of dollars.
....Pelosi’s inaction isn’t without risks. Rangel’s troubles, coupled with the equally embarrassing ethics problems of another Pelosi-allied Old Bull, Rep. Jack Murtha (D-Penn.), could damage the Democratic brand in the midterms.

If Pelosi were to supplant Rangel, she’d face the prospect of choosing from a unappetizing menu of potential replacements at the Ways and Means helm.

“There are not a lot of good choices for her on that committee,” said a leadership aide.

The next Democrat in line would be Pete Stark, an outspoken 77-year-old liberal with a firebrand reputation and a penchant for intemperate cracks – like calling Blue Dog Democrats “brain dead.”

Next up: Michigan Rep. Sander Levin, also 77, and Washington Rep. Jim McDermott, 72, who are not considered favored choices of Pelosi based on their ages and temperaments.

The two most desirable substitutes from leadership’s perspective, staffers say, are Georgia Rep. John Lewis, 69, the civil rights hero, whose appointment would assuage Black Caucus anger at Rangel’s ouster; and Massachusetts Rep. Richard Neal, 60, a tax expert who is a favorite of his colleagues
So it looks as if Charlie Rangel will be around for a while, unless the Ethics Committee makes a ruling, or he is caught with a scandal so heinous that he will be forced to resign from congress.

Anyone Got Some Popcorn?

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