In an editorial today titled “Sorry Charlie,” the Washington Post called on Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) to step down as House Ways and Means Chairman. The editorial comes in the wake of Rangel amending his financial disclosure forms for the years 2002 to 2006, showing that his net worth was roughly double what he previously claimed. The Post called Rangel’s revised filings “a treasure trove of outrage.”
Rangel’s amendments were prompted by increased scrutiny of his finances after NLPC exposed his failure to disclose (or pay taxes on) rental income from his beachfront “villa” at the Punta Cana resort in the Dominican Republic.
The Post concludes:
Much is expected of elected officials. Much more is expected and demanded of those entrusted with chairmanships and the power that comes with them, especially when it involves the nation’s purse strings. From all that we’ve seen thus far, Mr. Rangel has violated that trust continually and seemingly without care.
The Post also notes “lobbyist-paid trips by Mr. Rangel and four other members of Congress.” NLPC also exposed a Citigroup-funded, Rangel-led junket to the Caribbean island of St. Maartens in November 2008. I crashed the event as an uninvited observer and documented violations of House Rules.
We welcome the Post editorial but it does not address an even more serious matter— whether Rangel will face criminal prosecution. As pointed out in the instruction manual published by the House Ethics Committee on filling our the disclosure forms:
The Ethics in Government Act of 1978, as amended, provides that the Attorney General may seek civil penalty of up to $11,000 against an individual who knowingly and willfully falsifies or fails to file or report any information required by the Act. (5 U.S.C. app. § 104).
In addition, 18 U.S.C. § 1001, as amended by the False Statements Accountability Act of 1996, is applicable here, That criminal statute, as here relevant, provides for a fine and/or imprisonment for up to five years for knowingly and willfully making any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation, or falsifying, concealing or covering up a material fact, in a filing under the Ethics in Government Act. (emphasis ours)
The scale of Rangel’s omissions means they could have only been willful and deliberate. As detailed in the Post editorial:
He neglected to report a checking account with the Congressional Federal Credit Union and one with Merrill Lynch, each valued between $250,000 and $500,000; the tens of thousands of dollars he’s earning from dividends from a number of mutual funds and stocks; and the money made from the sale of a Harlem townhouse. As a result, Mr. Rangel’s reported net worth doubled, from between $516,015 and $1,316,000 to between $1,028,024 and $2,495,000.
Yes, the Post is right. Rangel should resign. If he refuses, it is incumbent upon House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to remove him. But that should not be the end of it. He should also be subject to criminal prosecution.