Framing the Dialogue

Adding Injury to Injury

Consider the case of Democrat Charles Rangel. After serving in the military Rep. Rangel was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives where he rose to the extremely powerful position of Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.  As chairman of that committee he oversaw the development of the tax code to which you and I have to comply.  During his ascension to power Mr. Rangel seems to have accumulated a great deal of wealth, perhaps even beyond the amount you would expect on his government salary.  Recently found guilty of breaking house ethics rules and censured Rangel does not seem to understand what he really did wrong…for the most part.

“I continue to draw satisfaction from the recently concluded ethics committee investigations that established that, while I committed serious violations of the rules of the House, none of those violations included corruption, intent, seal-dealing, self-enrichment or quid pro quos involving any official action.”

He now knows that he should have paid income taxes on his rent earned from his lavish villa in the Dominican Republic and he graciously paid them after he was caught. By the way he reportedly paid no fine or interest on the back taxes.  He has not quite explained how he has four rent-controlled apartments in New York while rules permit only one. One is allegedly a campaign headquarters, but the rent that he pays for all of the units seem remarkably lower than other comparable apartments.  There is also the fact that he sought (allegedly) donations toward his library/center from some folks who could benefit from his friendship.  No quid pro quo there; at least not that you can prove.

We should, however, feel sorry for Charlie as he has racked up enormous legal bills trying to defend his actions.  Some reports had the amounts over a million dollars before the last round of hearings.  That’s a lot of money even for a politician.  So how does someone who makes a paltry $174,000 per year.  Of course that doesn’t include the perks of the job (I mean the official ones not the others).  I think that most Americans would be shocked to learn how liberally campaign money is spent to pamper candidates and defer their out-of-pocket expenses.  Campaign spending laws are felt to be intentionally vague to allow candidates to spend as they please.  Wait, you mean that we allow the folks who collect and spend the money write the rules governing how they may spend it?

As bad and unreasonable as this seems, Rangel has wrangled more juice from the trough as he recently established Charles B. Rangel Legal Expense Trust.  Remember those high legal bills Charlie built up? Now you can officially donate to help Charlie pay them off.  I have to wonder why it was set up as a “trust” perhaps that allows donations to be tax deductible.  If you are interested you are limited to $5,000 per year.  A family of five, however, should be able to donate $25,000 to help Rep. Rangel.  We can rest assured that there will not be any quid pro quo from Mr. Rangel and that the money will be spent judiciously.

Only in America can you break the law (he did evade taxes not just break House ethics rules) and set up a charity to get folks to pay for your mistakes. Unfortunately this joke is on all of us when you consider how many of our congressmen and congresswomen participate in these activities. I would love to see a news agency hire a forensic accountant to review all of Mr. Rangel’s financial records over the years to show how he “earned” all of his money.  After Rangel they can review Reid and Pelosi’s accounts.  Actually any politician that has never worked outside of politics is fair game.  McCain and Kerry would be exempt since they married money.

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