- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 11, 2009

If House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s pledge to “drain the [congressional] swamp” of corruption actually had teeth, she’d have to boot more than just embattled Ways and Means Chairman Charles B. Rangel.

That’s the unintended message California Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters delivered last week as she defended Mr. Rangel’s failure to report hundreds of thousands of dollars in income and assets. Mrs. Waters has to defend such collegial corruption because if Mr. Rangel loses his lofty perch, the congresswoman won’t be far behind.

“I want to tell you, there are many members who, if you go back over all of their records, over all of the years, you’re going to find that there were disclosures that were not made,” Mrs. Waters told MSNBC. The “we all do it defense” isn’t sufficient for one of the nation’s chief tax writers.

When Mrs. Waters invokes the “we all do it” defense, she really means: I do it. She has been named one of the most corrupt members of Congress by the liberal-minded ethics group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and faces her own ethics investigation.

While the panel has not disclosed details of the probe, Mrs. Waters came under scrutiny most recently for working to secure a December 2008 federal bailout for Massachusetts-based OneUnited Bank. Her husband served on the company’s board until early last year and owned stock worth at least $250,000.

Mrs. Waters says the $12 billion infusion of taxpayer cash into the bank after she arranged two meetings on its behalf wasn’t related to her efforts. No doubt such coincidences abound.

Mr. Rangel has been under investigation by the House Ethics Committee for more than a year, and the panel just expanded its probe. The allegations now include his failure to declare more than $650,000 in assets on his 2007 financial disclosure forms in addition to charges of illegally maintaining three rent-controlled New York City apartments, failing to report $75,000 of income from a Florida condo, using official congressional stationery to hit up donors for a think tank in his name, landing tax benefits by claiming three different homes as his primary residence, and failing to pay taxes on rental income from property in the Dominican Republic.

The minimal safeguard of lawmakers declaring their incomes and assets helps ensure that they are not on the take or abusing their power. It doesn’t take a yearlong investigation to recognize that Mr. Rangel has subverted that purpose. Nevertheless, Mrs. Pelosi and the ethics panel continue to drag their feet - expanding the probe but never concluding anything.

There is an undeniable stench of corruption in all this. Every day Mrs. Pelosi denies this fact, her credibility and the reputation of congressional Democrats crumbles further.