Tuesday, December 30, 2008

DC Examiner on Rangel & a "clean" resignation

If you care about honest government or the Internet's power to make information easily and widely available or both, you don’t want to miss today’s DC Examiner editorial which begins - - -

Veteran investigative journalist Bill Allison asked an important question not long ago on the Sunlight Foundation blog. After detailing 2008’s many revelations of conflicts of interest and other apparent abuses by Rep. Charlie Rangel, the New York Democrat who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, Allison noted that major amounts of time and money were invested by the media organizations that uncovered his unethical behavior.

But the media heat seems to have cooled more recently, and Allison observed that “it will be interesting to see how long reporters stick with this.” …

Among the most serious revelations are these:

· Rangel used official House stationary to seek contributions to the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at City College of New York. House rules forbid use of official stationary for such appeals.

· Rangel led a successful congressional effort to protect a tax break that benefited a oil company after the firm’s chief executive pledged a $1 million contribution to the Rangel Center at City College.

· Rangel failed to properly report income he received from a vacation property in the Dominican Republic.

· Rangel failed to comply with state law regarding his ownership of four rent-controlled apartments in New York City.

· Rangel improperly claimed a tax deduction for a primary residence in D.C., despite also claiming his primary residence back home in his New York congressional district.

· Rangel routed $80,000 from his campaign committee treasury to his son for virtually no work on a web site.

Rangel of course has denied all wrong-doing and claimed that many of the problems uncovered by the media were either a product of innocent confusion on his part or mistakes by others preparing his official documents.

Until only a few years ago, a congressman enduring the kind of attention that has focused this year on Rangel might actually have reasonably hoped to survive, once the heat was off.

But Allison points out another critically important factor in Rangel’s media coverage – much of it was made possible by online resources such as the congressional financial disclosure forms archive maintained by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Rangel would do well to ponder the prospect of further revelations, thanks to such online resources. The window of opportunity for a “clean” resignation is narrowing by the day


My comments:

To underline Allison and DC Examiner’s point about online resources being a “critically important factor in Rangel’s media coverage” there's a story - "Rangel Pays Parking Tickets With Campaign Funds" – this morning at Congressional Quarterly’s online news site.

CQ story highlights - - -

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles B. Rangel of New York has used campaign funds to pay $1,540 in fines from parking tickets in the District of Columbia in the last two years, according to federal campaign finance records and his office.

Rangel’s campaign committee and his “leadership” political action committee have combined to make 14 separate payments to the D.C. treasurer for “automobile expenses” since March 16, 2007, and a Rangel spokesman confirmed that campaign aides believe they were for tickets. …

Overall, Rangel’s committees have contributed $2,035 to the parking-ticket coffers of the D.C. Treasury since 2001. ...

The CQ story notes it’s “not illegal to use campaign funds to pay parking fines if they were incurred during campaign activities or in relation to Rangel’s position as an officeholder.”

Right enough. And Rangel will undoubtedly claim he’s a 24/7 guy who can’t recall a waking hour when he wasn’t somewhere doing good for the citizenry.

So as far as any rule- or law-breaking goes, he’ll very likely get a “pass” on this one.

But today’s CQ story, which undoubtedly relied on online resources, adds to the mountain of Rangel-sleaze and should cause him to heed the Examiner’s warning: the window of opportunity for a “clean” resignation is narrowing by the day.

The entire Examiner editorial’s here; the CQ story’s here.

Hat tip: Instapundit


Anonymous said...

Rangel also made use of the House Parking Garage to park an extra vehicle of his in contravention of House rules. Each member has one slot - he parked his vehicle for some six months even after being warned that he was in violation of the rules. It is his hubris that gets me as much as anything.