Wednesday, December 17, 2008

You Don't Say: Rangel Broke House Rules On Trips

None of this is surprising. Democrat Charles Rangel openly flouts laws and rules, whether it's tax law or House ethics rules. His latest screwup? Trips to the Caribbean appear to have broken House ethics rules.
For at least five of the last six years, Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) and several other members of the Congressional Black Caucus have spent a few days each fall at a different luxurious Caribbean island resort.

The trip’s official mission is to facilitate business and diplomatic relationships between the region and the United States.

This year’s trip took place Nov. 6 to 9, the weekend after the election, on the sun-swept 10-acre Sonesta Maho Beach Resort in St. Martin. The ethics committee approved the Caribbean trip, as it has done for several years, but new information uncovered about its corporate funding raises questions about whether the trip violates a two-year-old ethics rule passed after Democrats regained the House.

The New York Carib News Foundation, a nonprofit affiliated with a newspaper geared toward the city’s Caribbean community, is listed on members’ travel disclosure documents as the trip’s sponsor.

When the nonprofit’s CEO, Karl Rodney, sought ethics committee approval for the trip, as the new rules require, he checked a box on the form certifying that the foundation “has not accepted from any other source funds earmarked directly or indirectly to finance any aspect of the trip.”

After House Democrats regained the majority on a campaign of draining the Washington swamp, they passed tougher new rules governing privately funded trips for members. The ethics rules bar corporations or other entities that employ or retain a registered lobbyist from paying for multi-day trips, either directly or indirectly.

Yet two spokeswomen for American Airlines, the largest carrier from the U.S. to the Caribbean, told The Hill that the company recently provided in-kind donations of tickets for Rangel and five other members of Congress to fly from their districts to St. Martin, a tropical island in the northeast Caribbean. According to ethics experts, the American Airlines donation of tickets for members to use for a specific trip is a clear violation of House ethics rules governing travel. American Airlines has spent more than $6 million on lobbying in the first three-quarters of this year.
He and his fellow Democrats have broken the House ethics rules for five of the last six years. It wasn't until some journalists began digging into Rangel's actions following the revelations that Rangel was evading taxes on multiple instances that we're beginning to learn the audacious scope of Rangel's malfeasance.

I'm not holding my breath to see if House Democrats take action against Rangel. They have refused to force him to step down as Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, which sets tax policy for the nation despite being a chronic evader of taxes by failing to report taxes on multiple instances and across a wide range of tax issues (real estate, imputed income, rental income, etc.). They've refused to force him to step down despite breaking House ethics rules.

The rules simply have not applied to Rangel for years, and as we've come to learn, they don't apply to many members of the House, particularly if they're Democrats. Had these been Republicans, the scandal would be front page news and demands for his resignation would have been made loudly by House Democrats. Here, it's the silence of the caucus that is deafening. House Speaker Pelosi, a Democrat, has professed that this would be the most ethical Congress ever, and rose to power on the heels of scandals that laid the Republicans low. Nice to see that she's found ways to scrape the bottom of the barrel even lower.

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