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Sanction Congress, Not One Member
Saturday, 4 December 2010
Extensive mainstream media reporting says nothing about Congress and administration officials being compromised by their ties to big money donors, heavily affecting all legislation. These are higher crimes than of Rangel's mere self-enrichment.
The Constitution's Article I, Section 5, clause 2 authorizes the House of Representatives to discipline or "punish" its members for "disorderly Behavior," as well as for criminal, civil liability, or other misconduct issues. Ostensibly it's to protect the institutional integrity and reputation of the body, an impossible challenge given its longstanding record, notably over the past three decades, deserving far more than censure.
Punishment may be by reprimand, censure, expulsion, and/or fines, monetary restitution, loss of seniority, and suspension or loss of certain privileges. In addition, the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct may issue a formal Committee reproach by "Letter of Reproval" for misconduct not warranting full House action. It may also express disapproval by informal letters and/or direct communications with members.
In US history, five members were expelled, three during the Civil War for disloyalty to the Union. Others, however, resigned ahead of formal House action. More recently, on October 2, 1980, Rep. Michael J. Myers was removed after being convicted of bribery for political favors in the so-called ABSCAM FBI sting operation. On July 24, 2002, Rep. James Traficant, Jr. was also expelled after his 10-count conviction on charges of accepting favors, gifts and money in return for performing official beneficial acts for donors.
Unlike "expel," the term "censure" doesn't appear in the Constitution, although it's also authorized under Article I, Section 5, clause 2 power to "punish...Members for disorderly Behavior." Most actions occurred in the 19th century, usually over issues of decorum, including insulting other members on the floor, committing violent acts against them, supporting recognition of the Confederacy, selling military academy appointments, or more recently for financial misconduct or sexual misbehavior with House pages.
On July 11, 1832, Rep. William Stanberry was the first member censured for insulting the House Speaker. Prior to December 2, 2010, Reps. Daniel Crane and Gerry Studds were both censured on July 20, 1983 for sexual misconduct with House pages.
Charles Bernard Rangel, Democrat Representative for New York's 15th Congressional District
On December 2, the House voted 333 - 79 to censure Rangel (a 20-term member since January 1971) for ethics violations, its harshest penalty short of expulsion.
He becomes the 23rd House member so disciplined. In his case, it's for 11 of 13 charges, including improperly soliciting millions of dollars from corporate officials and lobbyists, failing to disclose hundreds of thousands of dollars of income and assets on financial disclosure forms, maintaining a rent-subsidized luxury Harlem apartment for his campaign committee, and failing to pay income taxes on a Dominican Republic villa.
In one of several December 2 New York Times articles, David Kocieniewski headlined, "As Rangel Stands Silently, Censure Vote Rings Loudly," saying:
Imagine the brazen hypocrisy by a tainted Speaker and body. More on that below.
A December 2 Times editorial headlined, "The House Rebukes Mr. Rangel," calling "the mood on the House floor....appropriately grim." Adding also that "Taxpayers disgusted by Mr. Rangel's actions and Congress' go-along-get-along attitude must demand more...."
Indeed so, but not what The Times suggests. More on that as well.
Major Unaddressed Issues
Besides their own compromised ethics, notably their ties to big money donors, both Congress and administration officials are guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors, ones far greater than Rangel's self-enrichment.
The list is long and disturbing, affecting all 535 members and every key administration official - serious crimes deserving indictments, prosecutions, and for most, imprisonment, not slaps on the wrist, reprimands, censure, expulsion, or for a president and vice president, impeachment, conviction, and removal.
Unsurprisingly, the extensive Times coverage said nothing, nor ever earlier about high government crimes and misdemeanors, the "newspaper of record" effectively endorsing them. That's its role serving power and privilege, relenting only in rare instances, this time on Rangel, perhaps reluctantly. Never for the most serious criminality, examples below.
Much more as well by officials corrupting the notion of government of, by and for the people. Repeatedly, they've betrayed the public trust by acting illegally, immorally, and/or destructively, including Rangel for his voting record, and (until replaced on March 3 over ethics charges), as Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.
It has jurisdiction over tax policy, tariffs, other revenue-raising measures, and vital programs, including Social Security, Medicare, unemployment benefits, federal welfare, enforcement of child support laws, and foster care and adoption programs. Its chairman holds immense power for good or ill. None in recent memory, including Rangel, served honorably, a "crime" omitted from his charges, as well as his 40-year voting record, supporting power, privilege, imperial wars, and corporate interests like most members of Congress.
All should be held accountable for issues far graver than self-enrichment. They affect everyone but the super-rich and rich, including betrayed constituents deserving better from elected officials but never getting it from either party - a real crime demanding much greater punishment than wrist-slaps, reprimands, fines, loss of privileges, or sanctions.
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Mr. Lendman's stories are republished in the Baltimore Chronicle with permission of the author.
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Baltimore News Network, Inc., sponsor of this web site, is a nonprofit organization and does not make political endorsements. The opinions expressed in stories posted on this web site are the authors' own.This story was published on December 4, 2010.