Posted 07/23/2010 07:26 PM ET
Finally taken down by the rules he thought he didn’t have to play by. AP View Enlarged Image
Scandal: The former Ways And Means chairman faces possible expulsion for playing fast and loose with his finances and taxes. Since that’s what the Congress has done with ours, maybe they should all face expulsion.
It is said absolute power corrupts absolutely, and for much of his 40 years in Congress, many spent riding herd on the nation’s tax code, Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., had absolute power over our tax laws and finances. He was, in political terms, 10 feet tall and bullet-proof. Not anymore.
We don’t know if his shenanigans got too much for even House Democrats to handle or if they just felt they had enough problems this November, particularly on the issue of taxes, to have as one more albatross around their neck — someone who made avoiding them an art form.
The House Ethics Committee, an unintentional oxymoron, has voted to form an adjudication panel that will now conduct something similar to a trial of an investigative panel’s findings that Rangel has committed serious ethics violations that warrant some kind of action.
This may or may not be significant, but this is the first time in eight years such a panel has been formed, the last time being one that resulted in the expulsion of Rep. James Traficant, D-Ohio, who later went to prison.
Rangel was forced out four months ago as chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee after it became known that he failed to pay 20 years of back taxes on $75,000 of rental income from a Caribbean villa and had illegally rented multiple rent-stabilized apartments in a Harlem building, one of which he used as an office. He was also admonished by the committee for going on a corporate-paid junket to the Caribbean.
Rangel also has been accused of using his congressional letterhead for soliciting large corporate donations for a center named after him at CCNY while heading Ways and Means. He preserved a tax shelter for an oil-drilling company, Nabors Industries, whose chief executive donated money to the Rangel Center.
All in all, he failed to reveal to Congress more than $600,000 in assets and tens of thousands of dollars in income. And, for good measure, breaking House rules, he stored his vintage Mercedes in the congressional garage.
Rangel seemed to believe that either the rules didn’t apply to him or he was just smarter than everyone else. This arrogance of power permeates this Democratic Congress, which has burdened future generations with unconscionable levels of debt, taxation and regulation. We saw health care reform that will lead to higher costs and rationing, imposing a system Congress exempted itself from.
Rangel believed that he didn’t have to play by the rules. Neither does this Democratic Congress, which spends money we don’t have on stimulus packages that don’t stimulate while sucking all the economic oxygen out of an economy gasping for air.
It used to be that congressmen were rewarded with long service for bringing home the bacon. In Rangel’s case, he used his incumbency to live high off the hog while helping to tax Americans to death and then taxing that death.
The mood of the country is changing, and voters want representatives who feel they work for the people, and not the other way around.
Americans seem to be saying: “Don’t help us anymore — we can’t afford it.” To the Charlie Rangels of the world, we indeed need to say: “Don’t help yourselves at our expense either.” This is just one more thing for voters to remember in November.