It’s Time For Rangel To Go!

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Silence cannot undo what greed and arrogance has brought into being. Denial and deception will not suffice either. He must own up and walk away, and give another generation of young politicians a chance.

[Fleming’s View]

Oh, how the Mighty have fallen! New York Congressman Charlie Rangel has gotten himself into some serious hot water that might get him thrown out of Congress.

Last September, the House Ethics Committee announced an investigation into Rangel’s “cavalier” failure to report thousands of dollars in rental income and tax avoidance on his lavish villa in the resort in the Dominican Republic, and the supposed living in multiple rent-stabilized apartments on New York City while claiming a Washington, D.C. home as his primary residence for tax purposes.

His other questionable activities included using congressional stationary to solicit for an institute in his name for City College.

Currently, Rangel, the 79-year-old powerful chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, the panel that writes this country’s tax laws, has thumbed his nose at taxpayers again. Records show the decorated Korean War veteran failed to pay taxes on two plots of land in New Jersey. He was compelled to amend his required financial disclosure forms, revealing over $780,000 in previously unreported assets.

According to the revised filings, the Harlem Democratic powerhouse forgot to report between $38,902 and $116,800 in 2007 income. The corrected disclosure form, which also revealed omissions from his 2002 to 2006 records, further cemented Rangel’s arrogance and greed to the poor and middle-class citizens he represented in Harlem, Spanish Harlem, Washington Heights, and Inwood.

He ignored a checking account with the Congressional Federal Credit Union and a similar financial set-up with Merrill Lynch, each worth between $250,000 and $500,000. He is said to be earning tens of thousands of dollars from dividends from a multitude of mutual funds and stocks.

Also, there is a Congressional probe on a failure to report income from a sale of a pricey Florida condo and another matter of expensive trips from influential lobbyists to Rangel and four other members of Congress.

There have been press conferences called by Rangel to confront this matter, but they have been frequently called off because of the Congressman’s hectic schedule. Some Harlemites have never forgotten that Rangel was instrumental in challenging the charismatic Adam Clayton Powell Jr., aligning himself with the Congressional establishment to bring down the popular representative for an ethics violation that was much smaller in nature than the current woes incurred by Mister Charlie.

Powell, suffering from cancer and exhaustion, lost his seat, but regained it in 1969 due to the U.S. Supreme Court decision. In the June primary, Rangel defeated Powell by 150 votes and the vanquished ex-congressman went to the West Indies and later died.

Calls for Rangel to resign have appeared in local and national media. Some pundits say the tarnished Rangel is an ugly smear on the reputations of honest Democrats and that the party cannot close its eyes to such sleaze and greed. However, the people have not voiced any outrage about the cornered legislator’s ethical problems, choosing instead to remain silent pending the outcome of his latest fiasco. In fact, a few supporters have said Rangel has been framed and that there is a massive conspiracy against him.

But then, the supporters of former Democratic Congressman William Jefferson said the nine-term New Orleans-based representative was a victim of government entrapment. However, when Jefferson was caught with $90,000 in his freezer, he knew that he had done wrong. He was found guilty of 11 of 16 corruption charges by a federal jury.

He was charged with soliciting bribes in schemes with American businesses trying to broker deals in West Africa. He then funneled money to companies controlled by members of his family, including his wife, brother, and his five daughters. He still faces many years in prison.

The only Black politician locally who can say recently that he was framed is Councilman Eugene Robinson. You see, prosecutors say a rival White councilman John Schultz, along with his friends Floyd Tally, and two Callaway brothers, hired a prostitute to lure Robinson into a motel.

The mastermind of the plot was former Atlantic City Council president Craig Callaway, who pleaded guilty and sentenced to three years in prison. Robinson, who is also a Baptist minister, was videotaped giving the woman money before she performed orally on him. According to plan, the plotters threatened to go public with the porn footage unless Robinson quit his post.

The trial for the remaining four men has been set for Sept. 26, after they refused a plea deal. With Reverend Robinson and his apology of “the flesh is weak” aside, Congressman Rangel’s record as a politician of 42 years has suffered a fatal blow that may not be repaired.

Silence cannot undo what greed and arrogance has brought into being. Denial and deception will not suffice either. He must own up and walk away, and give another generation of young politicians a chance.

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