Taking the Capitol Words Rabbit Hole: “Caribbean”


According to Carl Malamud, Sunlight is “truly styling” due to our appearance in the Reliable Source in an article about Capitol Words and the top words used by a smattering of lawmakers. I thought I’d provide a little, friendly correction to the gossip mavens at the Washington Post regarding the use (overuse) of the word “Caribbean” by Rep. Charles Rangel — something that piqued my interest a while back.

The Reliable Source notes correctly that the word most often released from Rangel’s mouth over the past year was “Caribbean.” However, they claim this is due to his being under investigation for failure to pay taxes on a Dominican villa. This isn’t correct, but the reality does have a connection to Rangel’s troubles.

Now we need to first note that the word use is according to the Congressional Record, which I think we’ve mentioned before includes a whole bunch of words that were never actually spoken on the floor of either chamber of Congress. (You can even fabricate an entire conversation as Sam Brownback and Lindsey Graham once did.) Instead of speaking words, congressmen can insert them into the Record during debate or in the Extension of Remarks. Rangel’s use of the word falls into this latter category and mostly due to his insertion of articles penned for the New York CaribNews (he uses a variety of different spellings for this news outlet).

During the 110th Congress, Rangel inserted articles by the New York CaribNews 45 times. The word “Caribbean,” inserted by Rangel, appears on a total of 77 separate insertions into the Exetensions of Remarks.

The New York CaribNews is a heavily circulated paper in New York City, providing news to the very large Caribbean community in the city. Rangel’s Harlem district also hosts a large number of people of Caribbean descent and recent immigrants.

So what does this mean? Where is the connection to anything related to Rangel’s ethical troubles? The New York CaribNews is owned by the New York Carib News Foundation, which came under fire for hosting a business getaway for members of the Congressional Black Caucus, including Rangel, that may have violated congressional ethics rules. According to the New York Post and The Hill, private companies provided the money to the New York Carib News Foundation to spend directly on the travel of the lawmakers. This would be in violation of House ethics rules preventing private companies from providing lawmakers with in kind contributions.

I’m not sure what this says about anything. Is Rangel using the Extension of Remarks to curry favor with the Carib News Foundation? Does this constant reference in the official Congressional Record help with their corporate sponsorships? Perhaps readers have other questions — or answers.

Anyways, looking up an odd word used by a lawmaker in the Congressional Record can sometimes take you down the rabbit hole. Go to Capitol Words to see how far you can get.