The New York Times and the Washington Post have called on Rep. Charlie Rangel (D.-N.Y.) to step down from as chair of the Ways & Means committee until an ethics investigation on his personal finances is completed.
The New York Times called on Rep. Charlie Rangel to resign his chairmanship from the powerful Ways & Means Committee in September when all his financial shenanigans were beginning to come to light. Now the Washington Post is calling for the chairman's ouster, too.
Neither of these calls, however, have gotten much play in the cable television news programs.
The House Ways & Means chairmanship is especially potent because the Constitution dictates only the House has the power to raise revenue (taxes) and this is the house committee charged with that duty. As chair, Rangel is able to craft tax-raising legislation, schedule it for a committee vote and then send it to the full House for a vote. From there the bill can go to the Senate and then finally, to the President's desk for his signature.
"While he remains innocent until proven otherwise, he should step aside as chairman while the ethics committee expands its inquiry," wrote the editors of the Washington Post today.
The NYT's September editorial made the same request. Last Tuesday, the NYT reported that Rangel has secured a tax break for an oil company whose CEO made a $1 million donation to the Charles B. Rangel of Public Service at the City College of New York. This revelation is what spurred the Washington Post to call on Rangel to step aside.
Reporters discovered a myriad of personal financial problems related to Rangel's homes and campaign fundraising over the summer. Rangel was found illegally using a Harlem rent-stabilized apartment for campaign purposes, improperly sending letters on congressional letterhead to solicit donations for his pet projects and owing somewhere around $75,000 on his beach house at a yacht resort in the Dominican Republic. “Every time I thought I was getting somewhere, they’d start speaking Spanish," he said as an excuse. Rangel rented the beach house for as much as $1,000 a week to tourists in the high season.
He was even illegally storing his vintage Benz in the House parking garage. The plates had been over the unmoved car for years. Technically, Rangel was supposed to report this parking perk as a gift on his financial disclosure forms, but he never bothered.
Rangel insists these ethical lapses should not cause him to lose his position. House Speaker Nancy Pelosis has called for an investigation that is scheduled to be completed on January 3. The editors at the Post want to see action sooner.
"At a time when President-elect Barack Obama is holding frequent news conferences to reassure the markets and the American people that he is ready to lead the nation to economic recovery, the last thing he will need is a chairman of Ways and Means caught up in a swirl of serious allegations," the Post editors wrote.