Charles B. Rangel is the 23rd member of the House of Representatives to face censure, though his attitude suggests his day of reckoning was just another day at the office.
The bipartisan House Ethics Committee found Mr. Rangel guilty of 11 ethics-rules violations related to unpaid taxes on rental income from his villa in the Dominican Republic, failure to disclose personal financial assets and improper solicitation of donations. Additionally, last spring, Mr. Rangel resigned as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee after being found guilty of accepting corporate-financed travel. Now the Federal Election Commission is investigating whether Mr. Rangel improperly used $400,000 from his National Leadership PAC to fund his defense on the previous ethics charges.
None of this has made an impression on Mr. Rangel, a 40-year House veteran who until recently was one of the most powerful men on Capitol Hill. “I was not found guilty of corruption,” he told reporters after his censure was read on the House floor. “I did not go to bed with kids, I did not hurt the House speaker, I did not start a revolution against the United States of America, I did not steal any money, I did not take any bribes, and that is abundantly clear.” He claimed he’s “not guilty of corruption or self-enrichment,” but had an average citizen been found guilty of the same offenses, he would face sterner justice than a 45-second scolding. When The Washington Times’ Kerry Picket tried to make this point to Mr. Rangel, he was evasive and dismissive. “I don’t deal in average American citizens,” he quipped. “Citizens are diverse. They are broad. I don’t know what is average, and so I don’t really agree.” Whoever the average citizen is, we doubt he owns a villa in the Caribbean.
Mr. Rangel’s obfuscation notwithstanding, most Americans would approach congressional censure with more humility. “I am at rest with myself,” he said, “and I am convinced that when [the] history of this has been written that people will recognize that the vote for censure was a very, very, very political vote.” It’s more likely historians will note that the subcommittee vote on the charges against Mr. Rangel was unanimous except for one negative vote on the charge that he brought “discredibility on the House.” The full Congress voted 333-79 in favor of censure, with 170 of Mr. Rangel’s fellow Democrats joining in the condemnation. The only politics involved was by the 79 members who turned a blind eye to the facts.
“I know in my heart I’m not going to be judged by this Congress,” Mr. Rangel maintained. Indeed, his constituents have the final say and are likely to send him back to Congress if he chooses to run again. Rep. Gerry Studds - the Massachusetts Democrat censured in the 1983 congressional-page sex scandal (that is, someone who did “go to bed with kids”) - remained in Congress until 1997. Mr. Rangel apparently learned nothing and regrets nothing, except perhaps getting caught. His attitude of entitlement and sense that he’s above the standards to which other citizens should be held is instructive. For those who want examples showing why the American people hold Congress in the lowest repute since polls have been taken, look no further than Charlie Rangel.