- The Washington Times - Friday, July 30, 2010

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The trial process is under way on 13 counts of alleged wrongdoing by former House Ways and Means Chairman Charles B. Rangel. This is the action I have demanded night after night on the floor of the House since 2008, when the New York Democrat first publicly admitted wrongdoing. It is action that should have begun within a reasonable time frame - during 2009 at the latest. It is action that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi publicly predicted would be concluded by the end of 2008.

Justice delayed is justice denied. The speaker’s delay in addressing this very serious case is ironic, as the timing of this final act of Mr. Rangel’s likely downfall will be played out during the last weeks of the 2010 election campaigns, to the detriment of the speaker’s party. But to anyone who would cry partisan politics, please remember all those nights on the House floor during 2008, 2009 and this year when we pleaded with Mrs. Pelosi to resolve this issue. Had the speaker expedited this process as she promised, this case would have been settled last year, to her great political benefit.

This is the speaker who promised to “drain the swamp” of congressional misdeeds but instead has presided over the most scandal-tainted House in modern history, with Charlie Rangel as the flagship of Mrs. Pelosi’s fleet of corruption.

From the conviction of former Rep. William Jefferson of Louisiana on bribery charges, to the still unresolved charges of stimulus-money misuse by Rep. Maxine Waters of California, to the allegations of defense-contract wrongdoing against the late Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania and the now-defeated Rep. Alan Mollohan of West Virginia, to the ongoing investigation of the speaker herself for the alleged cover-up of former Rep. Eric Massa’s male-staffer sexual harassment scandal, the speaker instead has established a history of allowing Democratic corruption to grow and fester to unprecedented levels.

These are the inactions that have led to an 11 percent public approval rating of Congress, the lowest in American history. But there is more about this discredit to the House than the actual charges against Mr. Rangel, that in fact go beyond the speaker’s area of responsibility.

That is the issue of equality under the law for all Americans. Mr. Rangel has admitted failure to pay $75,000 in federal taxes for more than a decade. He has paid not one nickel in penalties or interest.

Any working American guilty of this massive a tax violation would be assessed at a minimum for tens of thousands of dollars in penalties and interest, and maybe even jail time for tax evasion. Yet the powerful former chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, which oversees the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), has paid nothing other than the taxes owed, nor has any enforcement action been taken by the IRS against this blatant and confessed tax evasion. This comes from the same Obama administration that promised to eliminate “two Americas” - one for the rich and powerful and another for the working people.

As it turns out, that is exactly what we have been given by President Obama and Mrs. Pelosi, as evidenced by the Rangel case and further exemplified by the case of U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, who also admitted to evading federal taxes without penalty. This is the very same official who oversees the IRS itself and whose employees would be fired for committing the same offense their boss did.

The case against Mr. Rangel is finally under way, but it should be the beginning, not an end to cleaning up the pervasive corruption at the highest levels in Washington, which we have seen grow to epidemic proportions since Democrats won the House in 2006.

It is my hope that the final outcome of the Rangel case will be not just to resolve Mr. Rangel’s House ethics charges but also to reveal how top federal officials under this speaker and president have avoided equal justice under the law.

And with this trial occurring in the final weeks of the 2010 campaign, I believe we can rely on the American voter to be the ultimate juror to bring justice.

Rep. John Carter of Texas is secretary of the House Republican Conference.

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