The House Ethics Committee voted today, 9-1, to recommend that the full House of Representatives censure New York Democrat Charles Rangel. “Censure,” if adopted, means that Rangel would appear in the well of the House of Representatives and be orally rebuked by the Speaker of the House with respect to his misdeeds. It is viewed as a serious sanction, second only to expulsion from the House of Representatives.
Rangel, predictably, reacted emotionally to the Committee’s recommendation. The 80-year-old Congressman, who has served for 40 years, apologized, said he didn’t know how much longer he had to live, and added he hoped that the committee would indicate that his actions were not taken “with the intention of bringing any disgrace on the House or enriching myself personally.” He also made the Nixonian statement that he is not a crooked politician.
I’m tired of politicians who flout the rules, make an emotional apology, and then think everybody should forget about their ethical and legal shortcomings. In this instance, the House Ethics Committee found, on a bipartisan basis, that Rangel was guilty on 11 of 13 charges. The charges included that he improperly used official resources to raise money for his “Rangel Center” — which received a spike in corporate donations after Rangel became chair of the House Ways and Means Committee — that he failed to pay taxes on property in the Dominican Republic, and that for years he filed misleading disclosure forms that failed to list hundreds of thousands of dollars in assets.
Censure sounds like pretty light punishment for a pattern of violations of House rules that extended over a number of years. When you were a kid, getting yelled at by your parents was no big deal — it was grounding that really hurt. If Representatives can flout House rules for years and then, upon discovery, apologize, claim simple oversight, and retain their position after some finger-wagging by Madame Speaker, House ethics rules are pretty toothless.