The Wrong Stuff

Published: October 19, 2009

By Jim Lichtman
Image
Read More

Last Monday (Oct. 12) I brought up the ethical issue facing Charles Rangel, the House Democrat from New York.

Mr. Rangel has been under investigation for the past year regarding some questionable financial reporting. Recently, The House Ethics Committee has expanded their investigation into Mr. Rangel’s failure to “…report hundreds of thousands of dollars in income and assets from 2002 through 2006,” The New York Times reported (Oct. 9).

Until the issue is resolved, many – notably Republicans – are calling for Rangel to step down as chairman of the powerfulWays & Means Committee.  Several have come to his defense – notably Democrats. However, Republican Representative Peter King said, “I think it is a dangerous precedent to find someone guilty before the ethics committee has made a decision.”

Rangel’s lawyers claim that their client’s financial problems are more the result of “sloppy bookkeeping” than deliberate fraud.

So, should Rangel step down until the Ethics Committeecompletes its investigation or is Rangel innocent until proven guilty?

I consulted the most immediate source:  the 2008 edition ofThe House Ethics Manual by the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct. After you scroll through a rather lengthy and detailed table of contents and appendices, An Overview of General Ethical Standards (page 1) reads: “Members, officers and employees of the House should: Conduct themselves at all times in a manner that reflects creditably on the House.”

However, the top of page two addresses the issue even more clearly with a quote from former Speaker of the House Henry Clay: “Government is a trust, and the officers of the government are trustees; and both the trust and the trustees are created for the benefit of the people.”

I would ask Mr. Rangel’s attorneys two questions: Does Mr. Rangel’s behavior reflect “creditably on the House”?  Is he living up to the trust of the American people?

“Ethics,” ethicist and teacher Michael Josephson says, “is having the character and the courage to do the right thing, even when it costs more than you want to pay.”

With trust and confidence in elected officials at an all-time low, I believe Mr. Rangel knows the right thing to do, but it would seem the price is too high.

 

P.S.:  Is it me, or do both Rangel and Florida State University President T.K. Wetherell (see “Rogue Tutors”) use a lot of hand gestures when explaining themselves?

 

 

Comments

Leave a Comment



Read More Articles
The Latest... And Sometimes Greatest
Utter Chaos
Columbia University, House of Representatives, and the New York trial of former president Donald Trump: Pick a topic, and you will see what utter chaos...
April 30, 2024
Man of 1000 Faces vs. . . .
Silent movie legend Lon Chaney was known as the “Man of a Thousand Faces.” So convincing was Cheney—who developed and applied his own makeup—he could...
April 26, 2024
Principle Before Party
“Duty is ours. Results are God’s.”—John Quincy Adams In 1806, after a series of attacks by Britain on American ships carrying goods, Massachusetts Senator John...
April 23, 2024
We Need the Strength of Heroes
The Date: September 28, 1955 The Place: Yankee Stadium The Event: Dodgers/Yankees, Game 1 of the 1955 World Series Every baseball fan has seen the...
April 19, 2024
A Time of Troubles, A Time of Opportunities
It’s getting harder and harder to see the light at the end of a dark, relentless tunnel of anger and war at home and abroad....
April 16, 2024
Conscience of the Senate
Continued from Tuesday’s commentary, I offer two Senate leaders from the past. Tuesday, I spoke of the integrity of Republican John Williams. Today, I offer...
April 12, 2024