Steven T. Dennis of CQ-Roll Call interviewed former House Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel (D-NY) last week and reports:
The veteran New York Democrat still wants his Ways and Means chairmanship back, but he doesn’t want reporters to write that he’s planning to fight for it. He wants and needs the ethics committee to clear his name, but he feels it already sandbagged him with an unjustified admonishment that appears nowhere in House rules and gave him no chance to challenge the finding.
Rangel “temporarily” stepped down from his Chairmanship on March 3, the same way that Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-WV) “temporarily” resigned as ranking member on the Ethics Committee in 2006. Mollohan did not come back and neither will Rangel.
It is hard to see how the Ethics Committee can “clear his name” after it has already admonished him. And the matters being investigated now, particularly his admitted failure to pay taxes on rental income from a Dominican Republic beach house, are much more serious than the junkets. But it doesn’t matter. Rangel’s battle is already lost.
Although NLPC exposed both the Caribbean junkets and the tax evasion, we never believed that the Ethics Committee would actually investigate. Like Rangel, who filed the original ethics committee against himself, we assumed a cover up was assured.
We filed a Complaint with the IRS and the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia on the tax evasion, knowing full well that the Justice Department under Attorney General Eric Holder is no more reliable than the House Ethics Committee. Our real forum is the Court of Public Opinion, where we have won.
Poor Rangel can’t even play the race card. Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) solidarity crumbled as his problems mounted. The ethics subcommittee that investigated the Caribbean junkets was headed by Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), a CBC member who had been on one of the previous trips. Predictably, the subcommittee cleared the other five CBC junketeers. Rangel was thrown to the wolves.
In Rangel’s mind, he should never have had to relinquish the chairmanship in the first place, and he’s peeved at how the ethics panel handled the investigation of a corporate-sponsored trip to the Caribbean. Rangel was the only member to be admonished among those who went on the trip, even though the panel said it had no evidence he knew corporations helped pay for the excursion.
The Ethics Committee actually cut Rangel a break by allowing him to cling to the fiction that he did not know that Citigroup and other corporations paid for the trip. I was present at the 2008 event in St. Maarten. As I have pointed out repeatedly, and backed up with photographs, Rangel’s claim is implausible.
Dennis concludes that Rangel “lives in limbo:”
Asked about his future in Congress last week, Rangel said it is somewhat out of his hands.
“The answer to your question is what’s in the ethics committee report,” he said. “That’s the whole thing. I could have 10 different answers for you depending on what they say.”
They’ve spent a lot of time verifying the allegations, going all over the country where there are witnesses, and so I’m anxious. It’s been 18 months. … Whatever comes out of that committee will severely impact my political career,” Rangel said.
And with that ethics inquiry hanging over him, Rangel doesn’t want to stir up trouble by talking about taking back the gavel.
“I stepped aside pending the report of the ethics committee. What else can I say, you know? I don’t want to start a fight with members of the committee who would like to be the chairman of the committee, so it speaks for itself,” Rangel said. “I didn’t quit. I know you might want a quote. I’m not going to give a quote. … I don’t want to read, ‘Rangel intends to fight the committee for the chairmanship.'”
The 14-term Mollohan was defeated in a Democratic primary one week ago. What far-fetched scenario would allow the 20-term, disgraced Rangel to ever be taken seriously again, much less reassume his Chairmanship? There isn’t one.
Rangel is not in political limbo. He is detached from reality.
Timeline of Charles Rangel Ethics Scandal
Flaherty: Rangel Had to Know of Junket’s Corporate Sponsorship (Fox News Channel video)
Flaherty: Rangel Dirty Even After Coming Clean (CNN/Anderson Cooper video)
Flaherty: Rangel is ‘Serial Offender’ (CNN/Anderson Cooper video)