Thursday, February 25, 2010

Rangel Broke House Ethics Rules; Wrist Slap Expected

In what should have been abundantly clear last year when the allegations first arose, Rep. Charles Rangel broke House ethics rules. It should come as little surprise that the panel is opting not to censure or take further action against the senior Democrat.
At least four other members of the Congressional Black Caucus who were also on the 2007 and 2008 trips were exonerated by the panel, according to a congressional source familiar with the findings.

The finding is certain to jeopardize Rangel's chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Committee. The tax-writing committee will take a lead as Congress determines the fate of former President George W. Bush's expiring tax cuts.

Rengel's ethics troubles also present an election-year dilemma for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who led a Democratic takeover of the House in 2006 on a campaign promise to end a "culture of corruption" in the GOP-led Congress.

The 79-year-old Rengel, D-N.Y., has been in the House 30 years. It was unclear whether the findings would affect whether he seeks re-election.

The committee found that the financing of the Caribbean trips was improper for all the lawmakers involved but that only Rangel was aware that a corporation that routinely lobbied Congress picked up the tab, said the congressional official who was not authorized to speak on the record.

The committee decided against issuing formal charges against Rangel that could lead to punishment such as a censure.

That last bit is key - despite breaking House ethics rules, the panel didn't take action. Yet, the panel is still investigating Rangel for violating federal law in failing to pay all manner of taxes and underpaying state and local taxes in multiple jurisdictions. Still, this is a bad precedent for the Democrats, who are letting Rangel off even though he broke their rules.

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