Former Rep. Dan Rostenkowski died today at the age of 82. Rostenkowski was a powerful committee chair, head of the House Ways & Means Committee, who exemplified both the power of the 1980s Democratic machine and the ossified and corrupt nature of that machine. In 1994 he was indicted and, eventually, convicted of misspending official funds. A pretty lowly offense to fell such a giant.
Rostenkowski was the last Democratic lawmaker to hold the gavel at the Ways & Means Committee for a full term before Rep. Charlie Rangel took the helm in 2007. Rangel’s reign at the committee didn’t last long, as he was felled by similarly petty offenses. Rangel stepped down from the chair early in 2010 amid an ethics investigation that is now turning to the trial phase.
In an amazing video from 1994 (hat tip: Michael Crowley) ABC’s This Week brought Rangel on the air to discuss the ethical problems swirling around Rostenkowski. Rangel offers a near identical defense for Rosty that he would later use for himself.