Charlie Rangel’s ethics problems have continued to multiply, as it’s been revealed that for years, he has failed to disclose substantial assets (something like half his net worth) on his financial disclosure forms. The House ethics committee is investigating, but has done nothing so far. This is on top of Rangel’s tax troubles; he failed to report income on a Caribbean villa and paid back taxes (but no penalties or interest) when caught by the IRS.
Byron York notes that House Republicans are trying to embarrass the Democrats by introducing legislation codifying the “Rangel Rule.” The bill would grant ordinary taxpayers the sweetheart treatment that Rangel received from the IRS. Nancy Pelosi, of course, won’t allow it to be voted on.
More important, Byron points out something that had escaped me and has not been widely commented on:
[T]he Rangel case is very, very serious.
If you don’t think so, just look at this, from the front page of the Oct. 28, 2008 Washington Post: “Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska, one of Congress’s most powerful Republicans, was convicted yesterday of lying on financial disclosure forms to conceal his receipt of about $250,000 in gifts and expensive renovations to his house. …” Stevens’ conviction was later thrown out because of prosecutorial misconduct, but the message was clear: This is the kind of thing you can go to jail for.
Rangel appears to have hidden greater sums of money than Stevens allegedly did.
Will Charlie Rangel, one of the most powerful Democrats in Washington, go to jail? Perhaps prosecutors will give him the sort of preferential treatment that he got from the IRS. In Eric Holder’s politicized Justice Department, it’s certainly possible. But Byron is probably right that “it’s just a matter of time before [Democratic leaders are] forced to admit they have a serious Rangel problem.”