In the single debate Blumenthal has had so far with Democratic challenger Merrick Alpert, the attorney general was not asked whether he thinks congressional ethics watchdogs were a little too gentle with tax scofflaw U.S. Rep. Charlie Rangel, the reigning member of Congress' top tax committee who failed to report over $1 million in outside income and $3 million in business transactions as required by the House.
Addressing his tormentors, Rangel quipped recently, “I recognize that all of you have an obligation to ask questions knowing that there's none of you smart enough to frame it in such a way that I'm going to respond.” Blumenthal is well known in the state for aggressively pursuing law breakers and regulation scofflaws. In addition, he has talent for writing eye popping press releases. Neglecting to put the question to the attorney general and senatorial hopeful would be a missed opportunity.
Rangel is a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus. In January 2007, he ascended to the chairmanship of the House Ways And Means Committee. Rangel is an old-time politician who might easily have found himself at home in Tammany Hall. On his way to congress, he defeated in a primary Adam Clayton Powell Jr., a tough New York congressional fixture who, if such a thing can be imagined, was even more colorful, disputative and, some would say, corrupt than Rangel.
In February, the House Ethics Committee found Rangel had violated House gift rules after the congressman accepted payment from corporations for reimbursements made for conference travel in the Caribbean; the ethics committee required Rangel to repay the expenses. Pending before the committee are more serious charges involving allegations that Rangel improperly lived in multiple rent-stabilized New York apartments while claiming for tax purposes a home in Washington D.C. as his primary residence; improperly used his office to raise money for a public policy institute named after him at City College of New York; and failed to disclose to the taxing authority rental income from an apartment he maintained in the Dominican Republic.
Unamused by Rangel’s chutzpa, WCBSTV noted in a broadcast, “There may be a reason for Rangel's arrogance. CBS 2 HD has discovered that since ethics probes began last year the 79-year-old congressman has given campaign donations to 119 members of Congress, including three of the five Democrats on the House Ethics Committee who are charged with investigating him.”
One of the ways congresspersons in the greatest deliberative body on earth win votes for measures they present is to buy support in the form of congressional PAC contribution made to wavering senators or House members. To the surprise of no one, such campaign contributions within the “old boy’s” network are not presently regulated by congressional networkers. Occasions of possible campaign corruption that make congresspersons erupt in righteous indignation force the same conscience stricken servants of the people to wink knowingly at the vote buying by their colleagues. So long as the hand dispensing unregulated campaign contributions is attached to the arm of a senator or House member, that one hand will wash the other.
Note the hand washing by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: She will not consider removing Rangel from his Ways and Means chairmanship before the ethics watchdogs complete their work, while admitting that Rangel has been rebuked.
“It is a public admonishment," Pelosi said Sunday on ABC's "This Week.” However there is a bright underbelly to every storm cloud in Washington. Pelosi added, “It (the ethics committee) said he (Rangel) did not knowingly violate House rules. So that gives him some comfort. What Mr. Rangel has been admonished for is not good," said Pelosi. “It was a violation of the rules of the House."
However, the Speaker of the House Rangel violated pointed out his actions were not “something that jeopardized our country in any way.” Placed beside the growing national debt, which does jeopardize the country, Rangel’s indiscretions are a mere dot.
At least one Connecticut House member has been discomforted by the alleged corruption swirling over Rangel’s head like a black halo. U.S. Rep. Jim Himes has pledged to donate to charity the PAC money he received from Rangel, charity being defined, one supposes, as receivers other than U.S. congresspersons.
All the members of Connecticut’s congressional delegation are Democrats, the last two Republicans having vacated the premises during the last election. Is it too much to hope that other conscientious Democratic members of the U.S. House will followed Himes’ example and put a ten foot pole between themselves and Rangel?