Thursday, December 04, 2008

Charlie Rangel (D-NY)

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If you follow the House of Representatives, you know Charlie Rangel.

But first: Congressman Rangel is a decorated war hero, having been awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart while serving in Korea. He was in the service from 1948 - 1952.

From his official biography:

Congressman Charles B. Rangel is serving his 19th term as the Representative from the 15th Congressional District, comprising East and Central Harlem, the Upper West Side, and Washington Heights/Inwood. He is is the Chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means, Chairman of the Board of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Dean of the New York State Congressional Delegation.
He was elected to Congress in 1970, and as an aside, the 15th CD is the smallest CD, in terms of geography, in the country. He currently heads the House Ways and Means Committee, and is the first African-American to do so. He originally made a play for the seat by running against Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., who he defeated in the primary.

Charlie Rangel is a powerful, accomplished Congressman.

It's possible that Charlie Rangel may also be a crook. Maybe not, but he's certainly under scrutiny. We'll come back to this.

Something that has interested me about Mr. Rangel for some time is his idea of bringing back the draft. It's not that he is a hawk, he certainly isn't. He's generally a left-wing ideologue (with a touch of pragmatism). His feeling is that there would be fewer wars if the people on the ground fighting them were not disproportionately poor and non-white. Trivia question: which ethnic group has the highest percentage of their population in the American military? Answer here.

So here's what the Congressman is up against right now:

1. Did Charlie Rangel trade a $1 million dollar contribution for allowing the continuation of a tax loophole which benefitted the benefactor? He says no, the NY Times says yes. The Times seems to be winning on proof.

2. His CD congressional office is in a converted rent-controlled apartment. That's not a legit use of a rent-controlled apartment. The Congressman admitted that, and said he would move out. And then he didn't.

3. Legal and ethics problems related to a failure to pay his taxes related to money he made renting out a condo he owns in the Caribbean (since paid), the rent-controlled apartments (yes, there is more than one), and the possibility that he improperly used Congressional stationary to undertake fundraising for an educational endeavor to be named after him.

4. And then there's the gym:

The tiny office space holds everything a busy chairman needs to shed a few pounds in comfort - a flat-screen television, an exercise machine, a mirror, a small refrigerator and a telephone.

The room is just steps away from Rangel's well-appointed suite of offices, and staffers have observed the powerful Ways and Means chairman and his staff using the office multiple times over the last two months.

The House is considering an ethics investigation, and Rangel basically said "Bring it on."