Monday, September 14, 2009

Low Rent Charlie

Can the mud and muck that Charlie Rangel wallows in get even more slimy? Accused of illegally holding on to four rent stabilized apartments in a city where affordable housing is in crisis; and taking junkets on the corporate dime-not to mention all the assets he has forgotten to list on his mandatory disclosure forms-Rangel now stands accused of renting out his Harlem row house but failing to report the income. And this guy chairs the congressional committee that sets tax policy for the rest of us?

As the NY Post reported yesterday: "Rep. Charles Rangel reported no rental income for eight years on his rundown Harlem row house, even though public records show tenants were living there. The powerful chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee said he received nothing from 1993 to 2000 on the six-unit building, according to federal financial disclosure forms. But one current tenant told The Post she had lived at the building for 20 years -- and paid rent during that period."

But for all the congressman's sins, it still appears unlikely that the House leadership will ever chastise Rangel with more than a slap on the wrist-or even, heaven forbid, remove him from being Ways and Means chairman. All of which underscores what's wrong with one party towns. There are simply no political checks and balances-with indictment being the only manner of recall left for frustrated voters.

The Post does give us this side slapper: "The Ethics Committee is also taking a hard look at Rangel's claim on a 1989 mortgage document that the row house was his primary residence." Sure, the same committee that Rangel has been attempting to suborn with lavish campaign contributions? As Marcia Kramer reported: "There may be a reason for Rangel's arrogance. CBS 2 HD has discovered that since ethics probes began last year the 79-year-old congressman has given campaign donations to 119 members of Congress, including three of the five Democrats on the House Ethics Committee who are charged with investigating him. Charlie's "angels" on the committee include Congressmen Ben Chandler of Kentucky, G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina and Peter Welch of Vermont. All have received donations from Rangel."

Only in Washington could this pass a smell test-and didn't Speaker Pelosi promise to drain the corrupt swamp once in office? As one observer noted: "Does anyone else remember Nancy Pelosi’s promise to run “the most ethical and transparent Congress in history?” Does anyone remember Nancy Pelosi promising the “drain the swamp” in Washington DC? Does anyone remember the fact that Nancy Pelsoi has done nothing about the corrupt Democratic Congressman from New York named Charlie Rangel? This man is in charge of coming up with changes to our tax code and he has repeatedly committed tax fraud; however, he has not been removed from his post."

But all this hasn't stopped the usual gang from rallying to Good Time Charlie's side. As the NY Daily News reports: "Though he's facing critics in Washington over financial improprieties, Rep. Charles Rangel got nothing but love at home Saturday. "I'm here to show support for my brother," said former Mayor David Dinkins who was among 75 local politicians, church leaders and union members who rallied for Rangel in Harlem."

And whose mug is front and center in the picture accompanying the story? None other than Freddy Ferrer-the same ethicist who called out Pedro Espada as a man who has distinguished himself as lacking in character. These folks would probably defend former Congressman Jefferson's stuffing money in the freezer as a good example of the need for Americans to save more. If you recall, congressional leaders had responded with outrage-not at Jefferson's conduct, but at the seizure of his records: "The May 2006 seizure of his computer hard drive and office files was the first time federal agents raided a congressional office, and it led House leaders to assert that the documents were privileged legislative material not subject to search."

Swamp cleaning indeed! So, what we are left with is the spectacle of our own fearless congressional dean taking center stage as the poster child for Democratic hypocrisy in the upcoming election cycle. That all of those pols rallied around him is a sad but revealing portrait of the sickness that has contaminated our uncompetitive democratic system in New York.