The House ethics committee said on Thursday that it had admonished Representative Charles B. Rangel for violating Congressional gift rules by accepting corporate-sponsored trips to the Caribbean in 2007 and 2008.
Right on cue, Pelosi stepped up to defend her ethically challenged colleague:
Ms. Pelosi did say she had not read the findings of the House ethics committee, which determined that he violated Congressional gift rules by accepting corporate-sponsored trips in 2007 and 2008. But she parsed the ruling a bit differently than the panel itself, saying it didn’t find that he had knowledge of the sponsorships himself. “And I think that’s an important statement they made,” she said.
They both claim that because he wasn't personally aware of the nature of the trips, he shouldn't be held responsible. This, of course, is nonsense. Two members of his staff were aware and he is the one ultimately in charge.
Even liberals such as Markos Moulitsas have called for him to be stripped of his chairmanship of the Ways and Means Committee. Unfortunately this will never happen because Rangel is politically untouchable:
In Rangel’s case, the particular issue has to do with the Congressional Black Caucus, of which he is a founding member. For understandable reasons, the CBC tends to be sensitive when it comes to gavels and committee assignments. Historically, many of its members – like Rangel – have relied on the seniority system for their political status and power. The idea of removing a CBC member from a choice assignment or bypassing a CBC member for a plum opening is not to be considered lightly.
Pelosi would be wise to re-consider her support of Rangel. Pelosi ran hard against Republican corruption and was rewarded with control of the House in 2006. If she doesn't remove this albatross soon, expect Republicans to run similarly hard on the issue and potentially achieve the same outcome.
You can read the report here.