today in black history

February 22, 2024

Rep. Adam Clayton Powell (D-NY) is denied his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives for misuse of funds on this date in 1967.

The Chairman's Call

POSTED: September 10, 2008, 12:00 pm

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We applaud Congressman Charles Rangel’s decision to seek a House ethics committee determination on whether he has violated any rules or the law stemming from his failure to report income from a vacation rental property in the Dominican Republic. It is the right call by the congressman, who has distinguished himself throughout his career for his openness and honesty. His decision to request an investigation of himself is a marked departure from some episodes of the past when Members of Congress fought inquiries and impeded investigations.

Judging from what has been reported it appears that, if anything, Mr. Rangel is guilty of poor record keeping. There does not appear to be the slightest hint of intentional wrongdoing or criminality. It is one of the reasons we are disappointed this matter reached the front page of The New York Times given the relatively paltry sum of money, $75,000, the paper identified as having not been reported on federal and state income taxes, and the congressman’s House financial disclosure form. Yes, we understand that he is the head of the tax writing panel in Congress but there still should be some balance in how accusations are reported by the media. We do not believe, judging from what we know now, that this story deserved front page, top of the fold treatment; no matter if the subject is Chairman of the House Committee on Ways & Means.

Then there is the matter of Republican calls for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to temporarily remove Rep. Rangel from his chairmanship. There is no justification for such a drastic step and there is no precedent. It amounts to an Election year stunt and the Republican Party knows it. While we expect politics to be contentious at times, and downright nasty at others, it is sad to see the behavior of Hill Republicans on this issue since Mr. Rangel has gone out of his way over the years to act in a bipartisan spirit and extend himself to his colleagues across the aisle.

For Black Americans what is at stake here should not be forgotten. We often lament the seeming inability of our elected officials to make a mark, to have an impact. In private conversations, and some public, we like to play judge and jury; bring the accusations against our elected officials and then determine their guilt or innocence. While we believe that those elected to public office should be held accountable, we also know that politician bashing has become a popular sport. So we expect there will be some from our own community who will try to jump on the anti-Rangel bandwagon.

We should not be so stupid. Finally we have someone who is at the helm of one of the most powerful committees in Congress. His seniority gives him a prominent voice in the Democratic Caucus. Sadly, too few of us understand the inner working of the legislative branch so we fail to appreciate the benefits of seniority and the historic nature of Mr. Rangel’s ascendancy to the leadership of the Committee on Ways & Means.

Already there are reports that prospective candidates are lining up in Harlem, just in case… Well we would advise them to cool their heels. When the smoke clears we expect Mr. Rangel to fully make whatever accounting adjustments are necessary to comply with filing requirements. And it will be over.

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