Timing is everything in life. Timing couldn’t get any worse for Rep. Charles Rangel (D. NY). The timing of an ethics hearing before the mid term election is music to Republicans’ ears and much to the dismay of Democrats. Rangel is charged by the House Ethics committee with committing ethical violations allegedly consisting of failing to disclose income and assets, failing to pay taxes on a Dominican Republican house and using his official Congressional stationary to solicit funds for a center named in his honor. He has served 40 years in Congress.
Despite the fact that the allegations are personal in nature, a trial will be anything but personal. House minority leader John Boehner of Ohio says “this isn’t really about Charlie”. A truer statement could not be made. It’s about the mid term elections. It’s about the embarrassment of a trial for the Democratic members of Congress. It’s about Republicans attacking House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ( D. CA) for her failure to clean up Congress. It’s about Republicans trying to tie Rangel’s ethics problems to the White House, as if the White House has anything to do with his troubles. It’s about Democrats, Pelosi, the White House and very lastly Charlie Rangel.
A plea deal is in every one’s best interest except Republicans. Therein, lies the problem with Congressman Rangel in reaching a deal. His timing is really off on this one. Rangel, so far, admits no wrong doing. His lawyers have apparently tried to broker a deal. As of this writing, no settlement has been reached. At least one Republican must vote in favor of a deal.
Democrats kept mostly quiet concerning Rangel’s debacle. Now, with a hearing looming large on Thursday, at least several Democrats have called for him to do anything to avoid a trial. I’m sure that’s the unspoken sentiment of almost every Democrat up for re-election in September. Yet, I doubt if any of the members of the Congressional Black Caucus will call for Rangel’s resignation. Congressman Rangel is a co-founder of the Congressional Black Caucus (“CBC”). That is not the reason for their withholding any rush to judgment. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus know and understand the importance of a fair trial and that one is innocent until proven guilty. These days many forget the fundamentals of the law. If Congressman Rangel wants and can cut a deal, that’s fine. If not, he should be afforded a fair ethics trial regardless of the timing. Rep. Rangel should not be made a scape goat by Republicans. Unfortunately, his timing is way off to prevent that from happening. If no deal is reached, a full ethics trial is surely to take place in September, same time as the elections.
Debbie Hines blogs on race, law and politics. Click on Res Ipsa Loquitur for Best of Legalspeaks.