The Rangel Example For All Taxpayers?
By Paul M. Weyrich†
Republicans lost control of the Congress two years ago in part because of corruption. Some of their Members had to step aside because indictments hung over their heads. The Republicans years ago changed the rules governing their own Members. They ruled that anyone who was indicted had to step aside. The Democrats did not change their rules.
The Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Representative Charles B. Rangel (D-NY), has been accused by the New York Times of paying below market rents on four New York apartments (while entitled to only one) and of failing to report income or pay federal taxes on a beachfront property. His attorney, Lanny Davis, says Rangel may owe $100,000 in back taxes. Roll Call said Rangel may have misstated the value of a condominium he sold in Florida.
I can still see in my mindís eye the clip from the inaugural speech of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). She said the veil of corruption would be lifted from†the House of Representatives when the Democrats took over in 2006. It was dramatic and it was played over and over again. There is one problem. Representative Rangel remains Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. Rangel has had a couple of meetings with Pelosi and other Democratic leaders. Thus far the Democratic Leadership is standing behind Rangel.
The charges keep piling up. The New York Post reports that Rangel, in contravention of House rules, is keeping a 1972 silver Mercedes in the House garage. Rules require a valid parking permit. Rangel has none. Rules require that a license plate be displayed. It has no plates. House rules forbid the space to be used for storage. Rangel has had the car there for years.
There is something a bit disconcerting†when the chief tax-writer in the Congress tells us he doesnít understand the Tax Code. It is just too complex, Rangel tells us. There is hardly a taxpayer in the United States who itemizes who would disagree with that statement.
The whole episode is cause enough for Pelosi to ask him to resign. She apparently wonít and Minority Leader John A. Boehnerís efforts to force the issue have failed. Can you imagine any of us telling the IRS that we may owe a tidy sum but we arenít sure how much? If you or I used the excuses Rangel uses we would be headed for jail. What if we said some folks on our tax team had begun to speak in Spanish and we didnít understand what was being said so we zoned out? Or we, somehow, just forgot. Or we had no idea what was happening. With Pelosi unwilling to move and Boehner constrained by his own party, it is up to Rangel himself to take the appropriate action.
For the good of the country, and to preserve the integrity of the House of Representatives which he professes to love so much, Mr. Rangel, should step aside. If you are cleared you can return. But to remain Chairman under these circumstances does a disservice to your country, to the Congress and to you personally. †Step aside now and let the chips fall where they may. If you donít, the Speaker in due course will be forced to remove you. If you wait to be forced out that will be your legacy. Donít you wish for a better legacy than that?
(Paul M. Weyrich is Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation.)
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