Last week, the Democratic leadership in the US House came out in full and strong support for Upper Manhattan's Congressman Charlie Rangel.
Fundraiser in Washington
At a $5,000 per plate fundraiser for Charlie Rangel last week, former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, and the rest of the US House Democratic leadership attended the event in a show of solidarity with Congressman Rangel.
While Congressman Rangel may never again achieve the level of power and influence he attained as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, he remains the dean of the New York Congressional delegation, and "he continues to play a significant role in Democratic Caucus politics and on the powerful tax-writing panel."
US House Ethics Committee Under Investigation
We have argued that the Ethics Committee of the US House abused Upper Manhattan's Congressman when it pushed for his censure in 2010. The last member of Congress censured prior to Congressman Rangel had sexually abused young people under the care of Congress, while Congressman Rangel's problems were self-reported bookkeeping errors and similar missteps, all of which were corrected by Congressman Rangel. Many members of Congress had committed acts that were far more troubling and had faced lesser punishments or no punishment at all.
We have also pointed out that the US House Ethics Committee focuses its abuse on African American members of the US House. In fact, we noted that the Ethics Committee's investigation focused exclusively on African American members of Congress as of November 2009. In essence, the key to avoiding investigation was to be non-African American, and the key element of wrongdoing that the Ethics Committee embraced as punishable was "serving in Congress while Black."
Ironically, the US House Ethics Committee that brought ethics charges against Charlie Rangel and pushed for censure is now under investigation for misconduct by the Republicans on the committee related to the Rangel investigation.
Amazingly, the person who led the staff of the Ethics Committee during the attacks of Congressman Rangel actually believed that the charges against Congressman Rangel should have been dismissed.
The former staff director of the House Ethics Committee accused two top committee lawyers last year of secretly communicating with Republicans on the panel regarding the investigations of Democratic Reps. Maxine Waters and Charles Rangel, raising concerns over whether the long-running inquiries were compromised by key staffers.
Blake Chisam, the former staff director, wrote in a late 2010 memo to then-chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) that attorneys Morgan Kim and Stacy Sovereign improperly shared information in the Rangel case with Republicans on the committee — a move that “would have so tainted the proceedings that there would have been no option but to move to dismiss.”The Ethics Committee is now under investigation for unethical behavior. The charges against Congressman Rangel should have been dismissed. Perhaps there will be an apology one day. Or, perhaps one day, "serving in Congress while Black" will not be considered an ethical violation.