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Monday, August 2, 2010

Congressional Black Caucus Wonders Why The Ethics Committee is "Picking On" Black Congressmen

The grumbling from the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) is beginning.  Charlie Rangel isn't being charged with ethics violations because he made at least 13 ethical missteps, its because he is black. Maxine Waters' charges have nothing to do with the fact that she might have done a favor for the bank her husband worked at, nope, its because she is black.  Eric Massa wasn't pushed out of Congress for harassing his staffers, no its because he is black.wait Eric Massa isn't black. Ah but Senator Ensign isn't being investigated by the Senate Ethics committee because of missteps relating to the Hampton affair it is because he is black..wait he's not black either. But the continuing investigation regarding Pete Visclosky has nothing to do with his dealings with lobbyists, its because he is bl oh come on white too? Just what the heck is the CBC talking about?

The question of whether black lawmakers are now being singled out for scrutiny has been simmering throughout the 111th Congress, with the Office of Congressional Ethics a focal point of the concerns. At one point earlier this year, all eight lawmakers under formal investigation by the House ethics committee, including Rangel and Waters, were black Democrats. All those investigations originated with the OCE, which can make recommendations — but take no final actions — on such cases.
There’s a “dual standard, one for most members and one for African-Americans,” said one member of the Congressional Black Caucus, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The member said it’s too easy for an outside group to damage someone’s reputation by filing a claim with OCE (Office of Congressional Ethics).

“This is stacked against you once an accusation is made,” the lawmaker added. “You’re guilty until proven otherwise.”
Stack is the perfect way to describe the long list of violations that Charlie Rangel has been accused of. 
Rangel made his own referral to the ethics committee after news reports in 2008 that he improperly controlled four rent-stabilized units in a luxury Harlem building and had used official congressional letterhead to mail donor solicitations for the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at the City College of New York. That case later expanded to include Rangel’s failure to pay taxes on rental income on a Dominican Island resort home, failure to disclose hundreds of thousands of dollars in income on his annual disclosure form and his intervention on a tax break for a million-dollar donor to the Rangel Center.
On Thursday, the ethics committee hit Rangel with a 13-count Statement of Violation after a nearly two-year probe into his finances and failed attempts to strike a deal to avert formal charges.

But the investigation that cost him his House Ways and Means Committee gavel grew out of an OCE-initiated probe. While five of the other black Democrats eyed in the same affair ended up facing no sanctions from the ethics committee, Rangel was admonished in February for improperly taking corporate-funded trips to the Caribbean in 2007 and 2008. In March, he took what he called a “leave of absence” as chairman of the committee.
Waters’s case was referred by OCE to the ethics committee for further investigation as well, and a special four-member investigative subcommittee has found that the California Democrat violated as-yet-unspecified House rules.

While the Statement of Alleged Violation against Waters has not yet been released, she has been under investigation by the ethics committee regarding reports that she intervened with the Treasury Department during the 2008 banking crisis on behalf of a minority bank in which her husband owned more than $250,000 in stock. The initial probe into Waters’s case was launched by OCE, which recommended that she undergo a full investigation by the ethics committee.
“A lot of people have been raising concerns [about the OCE], and I support them,” House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) told The Hill newspaper in October. “At some point in the not-so-distant future, these concerns will have to be addressed.”

In May, Rep. Marcia Fudge, a black Democrat from Ohio, and 19 other members of the CBC introduced a resolution to rein in the office, created in 2008 as part of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s drive to reduce corruption in Congress.
In a statement on her resolution, Fudge said the OCE is “currently the accuser, judge and jury. This isn’t the case in the American justice system, and it shouldn’t be so in Congress.”

Fudge’s chief of staff, Dawn Kelly Mobley, was admonished by the ethics committee earlier this year for “improperly communicating” with Carib News during the investigation into whether the organization used corporate funds to pay for Caribbean trips by CBC members, including Rangel, in 2007-08. The investigation was led Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), himself a member of the CBC  s.

“House Democrats are paying a price for OCE’s focus on black lawmakers,” added a Democratic insider close to House leaders. “But that doesn’t change the fact that voters are going to see two African-Americans on trial in the House while they see no action against white members with ethical problems.”
According to Democratic Whip and member of the CBC, Congressman James E. Clyburn, Democrat of South Carolina that "racist" tea party is blowing the charges all out of proportion. 
Those Tea Party people that showed up at the health care debate, they will not hesitate for one moment to racialize something,” said Mr. Clyburn, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus. “They did, and they will.”

Full trials would give Mr. Rangel and Ms. Waters the chance to fully answer the charges, Mr. Clyburn said. “There was a lapse this year as it relates to Charlie,” he said. “Even by his own word, he said, ‘I was in fact sloppy.’ ”

Between recent changes in the ethics rules and a contentious political climate, Mr. Clyburn said, lawmakers were vulnerable to allegations that proved baseless or reflected an inadvertent misstep. “Just because these accusations are made, doesn’t actually mean there is anything there that the public ought to be concerned about,” he said.
 Congressman Clyburn has a point, of course it doesn't mean that there isn't something to be concerned about either.  Congressman Rangel is charged with making 13 missteps if they are inadvertent it says much more about the Congressman than if they were conscious decisions. He didn't know that you aren't supposed to have 4 rent controlled apartments? Fine I will bite....but then they are telling me that he is too scatter brained to realize that he is renting 4 rent-controlled apartments, too "out of it" to count that last $500,000 of income in his congressional income statement,  not smart enough to pay taxes on the rental income on that luxury resort. Is Congressman Clyburn really suggesting that Charlie Rangel is too feeble to be a congressman?  And what of Maxine Waters? Does she not know that the guy in bed next to her is her husband? Is she suffering some type of dementia so she didn't remember that the bank she inadvertently helped out, the one already cited for violations, was the one whose board her husband sat on, the one she owned lots of stock in?

To believe Congressman Clyburn's thesis, one would have to believe that Representatives Rangel and Waters' are not control of their mental facilities. While I disagree with their politics, they are both to bright to have gotten where they are without being intelligent. And to believe the CBC that the investigation of these two has anything to do with the color of their skin is just as ridiculous as the nonsense Congressman Clyburn is trying to get us to believe.

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