It’s been a bad two weeks for Ways and Means Committee chairman Charlie Rangel. Last week, the Washington Post and the New York Times broke successive stories revealing the congressman’s below market value apartment rentals and his use of congressional letterhead to solicit contributions from corporations for the construction of the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at the City College of New York. While the apartment deals are causing a stir in Rangel’s Harlem congressional district, his clear violation of House rules in using congressional letterhead for fund raising appeals are getting the most attention.
Presidents, senators, congressmen, and governors often receive honorary centers at local universities and colleges after they have retired from office, so the future existence of a Charles Rangel Center is not an out-of-the-ordinary or unexpected occurrence for the second African-American congressman from Harlem. The use of earmarking, the clear violation of House rules in his fund raising appeals, and the conflicts of interest in the operation of his committee mark this Center in the pantheon of congressional monuments to vanity.
James Kotecki of Politico gives this latest congressional ethical malfunction the sarcasm it is asking for:
Rangel is embracing an ethics probe of his fund raising. He will likely wind up being admonished for breaking House rules. (That is, unless the ethics committee is out of commission.)