By Pamela Gentry, Senior Political Analyst
Nov. 6, 2009 – The feisty and outspoken New York Rep. Charles Rangel (D) and several other Black lawmakers will most likely be cleared of any wrongdoing by the House ethics committee on Friday.
Rangel has been the subject of an investigation looking into several financial irregularities, including his failure to report more than a half million dollars in assets. Rangel always maintained it was an accounting error and that he would be cleared.
Republicans have tried unsuccessfully for months to get him to step down from chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, one of the most powerful committees in Congress, but Rangel declined to do so and for good reasons.
Roll Call is reporting Rangel along with four other members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) will be cleared of any misconduct for taking a privately financed trip to the Caribbean. The investigation centered on whether a trip to the Caribbean privately financed broke House travel rules. I was told by staffers, lawmakers checked with the ethic committee before taking the trip and it was deemed permissible. It’s not clear why the committee started the probe after the members reported it in their disclosure filings.
The four other Black lawmakers who will reportedly be cleared are: Reps. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D-MI), Donald Payne (D-NJ), and Del. Donna Christensen (D-Virgin Islands).
On Thursday a group of high-profile New York Democrats held a rally on the steps of City Hall to show their support for Rangel. Former New York Mayor David Dinkins told the crowd, Rangel has had a long record of public service, “Folks seem to have a short memory.”
David Jones, one of the organizers of the rally chided the media for their coverage of Rangel, “Where is the balance? Everything makes him out to look like he’s on the take.”
This will be good news for Rangel and the other four Black lawmakers who can put this all behind them. But for California Reps. Maxine Waters (D) and Laura Richardson (D) it’s just beginning. Last week the ethics committee opens two probes looking into Waters role facilitating meeting with minority bankers and government officials and Richardson relationship with the lender who foreclosed on her home. (See my Blog Oct. 30)
The House ethics committee has launched investigations into seven Black lawmakers; more than 15 percent of the total members in the House, no White members are under any full-scale ethics committee probe. Politco.com is reporting, an eighth Black member, Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-Ill.) would also be under an investigation if the Justice Department hadn’t stepped in and asked the committee to stand down.
The 10 member committee seems to have targeted Black lawmakers and is keeping them on the ropes of defending their names and reputations. It appears to be a distraction they just have to cope with.
Several of the 42 members of the CBC are majority ranking members and chair powerful House committees, some of these investigations could be a way to weaken their influence or remove them from power under a cloud of controversy.
It can’t be ignored that all of the ethics investigations are focused on Black lawmakers; they are being held to higher standard and it looks like the other 393 lawmakers are getting a pass.