Saturday, July 31, 2010

Charlie Rangel

The biggest political news of the past week has been Charlie Rangel's decision not to reach a plea agreement in connection with the House Ethics Committee allegations against him.

Rangel is accused of a variety of misdeeds, including (1) failing to report income on his Dominican Republic vacation home and (2) using New York City rent-controlled apartments as office space (rather than for residential purposes, which evidently was the requirement for these particular apartments).  The biggest charge is that he changed his vote on a particular tax code provision after meeting with a person or persons who agreed to donate to the Charlie Rangel Center and who benefitted (significantly) from the tax law change.

(As an aside: I love the picture of Rangel that I've posted here.  Something about legislators who wear their glasses low on the nose cracks me up.  Carl Levin is the most prominent example, but this picture reminds me that Rangel does it a lot too.  I assume it's done for reading purposes, but it gives the impression of a person who takes himself a bit too seriously.)

If Rangel's case goes "to trial" before the Ethics Committee, it would be the first time in close to a decade of such a trial - I think the last one was for James Trafficant. I get the sense that his fellow Democrats are extremely frustrated that he is being obstinate (in their opinion) in not agreeing to a plea, particularly since the trial would occur in September and very much play into the Republicans' "throw the bums out" narrative.

Another Rangel side-note: whenever Mark Shields talks about Rangel on the News Hour, Shield's visible discomfort is a classic case of the too-close alliance between DC media and politicians. I guess Shields is just being human in showing his personal admiration for Rangel, but something about it plays into a larger problem (for me), which is the unwillingness of many members of the media to truly hold politicians to account.

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