House ethics committee lawyers presented their case requesting summary judgment against New York Democrat Charlie Rangel. Lawyers outlining the case against Rangel played video of Rangel admitting he violated Ethics Rules, misusing official stationery to solicit private donations. Additional charges include accepting donations intended to influence his votes, using official government resources to solicit donations, accepting illegal benefits from his landlord and others from whom he could personally benefit and, on top of everything else, Charlie failed to pay federal income taxes.In total, Rangel is facing 13 charges of financial and fundraising misconduct.In dramatic fashion, maintaining his innocence despite video evidence of his admission, Rangel said his 50 years of public service is on the line because he can’t afford to get a lawyer and he is not permitted to use a pro bono defense because doing so would violate additional ethics rules. The former Ways and Means Committee chairman said he’s spent nearly $2 million defending himself against these charges and is out of money. He argued that if he were to set up a legal defense fund he would not have time to organize his defense before the panel rules.”All I’m asking for is time to get counsel.” Rangel added “I have lawyers in New York and Washington who’ve offered to come and give free counsel, but that would violate the law. So while you tell me, I can hire anybody, get anybody, not have a lawyer, time does not permit this matter to be concluded before the end of this session … and that’s the nuts and bolts of what we’re talking about.”Apparently the absurdity of Rangel’s request wasn’t lost on the ethics panelists, who denied the request saying Rangel had ample time to prepare his defense. Two years, you think?Ethics committee panelists, responding to Rangel’s announcement that he will not participate in the proceedings, said it was “fundamentally unfair” and “an astonishing display of professional irresponsibility” for Rangel’s lawyers to drain the congressman’s resources and then withdraw on the eve of the hearing. No, folks, fundamentally unfair would be panelists who accept these shenanigans as anything but legal gamesmanship.This is only the second time for this type of proceeding in the House since the ethics rules were revamped two decades ago. That is absurd, in and of itself, unless of course, you believe that there haven’t been any Congressmen in twenty years who violated ethics rules. It’s little wonder that crooks like Rangel think they can get away with anything and break any rules they want when the mechanism to mete out justice is only employed twice in twenty years. If the panel does the right thing, and finds Rangel guilty of breaking ethics rules, it could be devastating for Rangel. The penalties must scare the hell out of Charlie, because the ethics investigating panel could actually recommend that the House vote to condemn Rangel’s conduct. Holy crap, not that. [infobox]
Rangel is a crook who belongs in jail, which is where any of us would be headed if we’d done half of what Charlie has. This is but another example of why the electorate is finally rising up to throw the bastards out. Our elected officials aren’t royalty, and they’d be well served remembering that.