“It’s left up to the members”


My colleague Anu Narayanswamy has written on House disbursements; interestingly, they figure in a footnote of Rep. Charles Rangel’s defense against the charges leveled against him by the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct:

Members traditionally exercise broad discretion to determine what activities lie within the scope of their official duties. See 123 Cong. Rec. 5900 (daily ed. Mar. 2, 1977) (statement of Rep. Hamilton) (“There are essentially no rules and regulations” that define what is appropriately an official expense. “It is left up to the Members.”). The Standards Committee does not second-guess the reasonable judgments of a Member, made in good faith, that particular communications lie within his role as the people’s representative. Statement of the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct Regarding Complaints Against Rep. Newt Gingrich, at 63 (Comm. Print Mar. 8, 1990) (The Ethics Committee “is particularly sensitive when its actions might be viewed as limiting a Member’s ability to speak publicly on issues”).

At issue is Rangel’s use of official stationary to solicit donations for the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service.