District of Corruption

Rangel: One of Many


Charlie Rangel stepped down from his chairmanship of the Ways and Means Committee due to mounting ethics investigations yesterday, and to significantly less attention than other notable political criminals. Politico reports:

Rangel says he's stepping aside only temporarily, but he officially resigned the post in a letter submitted to the House Wednesday morning. Technically, he could be restored by a future House vote, but that's a political long shot given that he was forced aside by ethics troubles.

It was not immediately clear who would take the committee’s reins in Rangel’s absence, with some insiders predicting it would be the next man in line, California’s Pete Stark, and others predicting it would be Sander Levin of Michigan. Under House rules, Stark is chairman unless Democrats act affirmatively to put someone else in his place, according to a House GOP aide familiar with House operations.

A race to succeed Rangel in the next Congress — if Democrats hold onto their majority — could be a wild donnybrook involving several potential candidates, including Stark, Levin, Jim McDermott of Washington, John Lewis of Georgia and Richard Neal of Massachusetts. Xavier Becerra of California, vice chairman of the Democratic Caucus, could also be a factor, as he has won a party leadership election before.

Rangel chose to step down, he said, because the matter “is bringing so much attention to the press and [I want] ... to avoid my colleagues having to defend me during their elections.”

Those electoral pressures had put Rangel in a bind: Either resign or face being forced out by a Republican-written resolution that was quickly gaining Democratic support, both in public and in private.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) statement on Rangel Wednesday morning had a certain tone of finality to it.

“Chairman Charlie Rangel has informed me of his request for a leave of absence from his duties and responsibilities as chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means. I will honor his request,” Pelosi said. "I commend Chairman Rangel for his decades of leadership on jobs, health care and the most significant economic issues of the day."

The catalyst for Rangel’s removal came last week, when the ethics committee ruled that he had broken House gift rules by accepting corporate-sponsored travel to the Caribbean.

It is understandable for a reasonable person to question why Rangel was chairman of the Ways and Means Committee to begin with. His career has been marked with near-systematic occurances of corruption, starting in 1965 when he used public housing funds to renovate his Central Harlem home. Even just in the past few years Rangel has been fingered in several ethics investigations involving his financial infidelities.

There is nothing about Rangel's career that should come as a surprise to political observers, for he should find amiable company in the ranks of other major black public figures, such as Kwame Kilpatrick, Sharpe James, William Jefferson, Dianne Wilkerson, Marion Barry, Maxine Waters, Carol Elizabeth Moseley Braun, Roland Burris, and many others. Most of them were elected (and reelected) in minority jurisdictions and all of them support the types of social welfare programs that overwhelmingly benefit minorities and immigrants, and most blame racism for their crimes. All of them are explicitly corrupt.

What inevitably results from these situations is an unwillingness by the minority-dominated population to hold "one of their own" accountable at the ballot box when it is in their distinct interests to keep the crook in office. It virtually amounts to organized crime against the rest of the population.

There are, of course, countless white politicians wrapped in similar corruption cases... but very rarely can they be attributed to a complacent, racially-minded constituency all too willing to overlook the crimes of their representatives because of material benefit and baseless racist accusations. For that, we have only ourselves and our failed political system to blame.

Put another feather in the cap of mass democracy, I suppose.