The House ethics committee is admonishing Charlie Rangel for taking free trips to the Caribbean furnished by a lobbyist.
From Politico: The House ethics committee put another dent in the armor of embattled Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel Thursday, admonishing him for violating House gift rules by accepting corporate-funded trips to the Caribbean through an organization called the Carib News.
The committee essentially found that Rangel is responsible for the transgressions of aides who knew of the corporate sponsorship of the trips.
“The committee did not find sufficient evidence to conclude, nor does it believe that it would discover additional evidence to alter its conclusion, that Rep. Rangel had actual knowledge of the memoranda written by his staff,” an Ethics statement says. “However, the report finds that Rep. Rangel was responsible for the knowledge and actions of his staff in the performance of their official duties.”
But Rangel, who read the findings aloud at a news conference, took issue with the concept that staffers’ actions could be “imputed” to him.
“I don’t want to be critical of the committee, but the common sense dictates that members of Congress should not be held responsible for what could be the wrongdoing of, or mistakes occur, as a staff unless there’s reason to believe the member knew or should have known. And there’s nothing in the record to indicate the latter,” he said. “So I have to now deal with my lawyer as to what the hell do they mean that something’s imputed. Does it mean that no matter what a staff member does if the member doesn’t know it that the member could be charged and admonished publicly for it?”
Read the whole thing; there are a few more wrinkles to the story that I am not going into here. What I do want to point out is the weakness of Rangel’s argument. He is claming that he should not be admonished because his staff made the mistake. This is utter nonsense, because Rangel knows full well he did not pay for the trips himself. He had to know someone else was footing the bill. Are we to believe that he wasn’t the slightest bit curious who was paying or how? That is a pretty poor attitude for someone in charge of writing tax law.
It will be interesting to see what Nancy Pelosi does about Rangel. My guess, she will totally let him slide. Nancy isn’t going to go risk pissing off the Congressional Black Caucus by making one of their biggest members step down from his position.