11.19.2010 0

Rangel Off the Hook, Rule of Law Off the Table

Charlie Rangel Passed Out

By Bill Wilson

On November 16th, the House ethics panel declared Representative Charlie Rangel guilty of 11 out of 13 counts of corruption. Rangel used a rent-stabilized apartment for campaign activities, failed to pay taxes on rental property in the Dominican Republic, and improperly used congressional letterhead to raise funds for a City University center to be built in his name. These were not small infractions.

Many such infractions might find an ordinary American being audited by the Internal Revenue Service, paying exorbitant fines, or worse, going to jail. The rule of law states that the law applies equally to citizens and public officials alike, and that neither may break the law. Therefore, whatever prosecution and incarceration the common citizen might have expected for Rangel’s conduct should apply equally to Rangel.

So, what did Rangel get? On November 18th, the panel recommended the House sentence him — to a censure. What’s that? It’s a lot like a reprimand, but according to a Congressional Research Service report, also “will generally involve a verbal admonition, such as a reading of the resolution, to be administered by the Speaker of the House to the Member at the bar of the House. In the case of a ‘reprimand,’ however, the resolution is merely adopted by a vote of the House with the Member ‘standing in his place,’ or is merely implemented by the adoption of the committee’s report.”

That’ll show him. Rangel will have to stand in front of the House, in front of a national audience on C-Span, and… listen to a resolution condemning him. Such a timid punishment is what one might expect in a 3rd grade classroom. How about a dunce cap, too?

Some members of Congress have claimed that Rangel has been through enough, and that there is nothing else the House could take away from the man.

In truth, the only punishment the House could have offered with any teeth was expulsion from Congress for life. Such a sentence could have helped to reestablish public trust in Congress that its own members would be held to same standard as everyone else. Instead, Congress intends on simply delivering a slap on the wrist after a notorious corruption scandal.

Is it any wonder why Congress ranks at the bottom of institutions in a Gallup survey? Just 11 percent stated they had a great deal of confidence in Congress.

How fitting an end for Nancy Pelosi’s reign as Speaker of the House of Representatives, where one of her final acts will be to read a meaningless resolution condemning Charlie Rangel for his many ethical and legal breaches. He would be better suited to being tried in court of law for his crimes, such as tax evasion. Perhaps Pelosi will also allow him back as Ranking Member on the Ways & Means Committee while she’s at it. If he has not earned expulsion, perhaps he has earned a promotion?

This is just an affirmation of the good ol’ boy’s network. If Congress should have learned anything from the 2010 elections, it’s that the American people want members of the House to be held accountable for their actions. Expelling Charlie Rangel from Congress would have been a good place to start. Instead, he will be returning with the 112th Congress in January. For shame.

Bill Wilson is the President of Americans for Limited Government.

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