Sloppy Charlie
By John D. Turner
16 Nov 2010

It’s good to know that Democrats aren’t really corrupt; they’re just sloppy.

That’s what Blake Chisam, the top ethics committee lawyer says, concerning Charlie Rangel (D-NY), who recently walked out of his ethics trial, complaining that he didn’t have enough time to get a lawyer.

“…I believe that the congressman, quite frankly, was overzealous in many of the things he did. And sloppy in his personal finances”, said Chisam.

This is not the first time Democrats have used the “sloppy” defense when caught in the act. The most famous such case involved former Clinton national security advisor Sandy Berger, who allegedly removed highly classified documents from the national archives by stuffing them in his pants and socks. I say allegedly, because there was considerable hyperbole surrounding the incident, which MediaMatters went to considerable lengths to debunk back in 2004.

Regardless of the actual specifics of the incident, what is known is that Mr. Berger pled guilty to removing and destroying copies of a classified document pertaining to the Clinton administration’s record on terrorism. Mr. Berger's defense was that he “made a mistake”, “lost” some of the documents, and was just “sloppy”. Democrats were quick to come to the “sloppy” defense, with many of them stepping forward to explain, in his defense, just how sloppy the former national security advisor truly was.

So now we have “sloppy Charlie,” a man accused of 13 counts of violating House rules, including

I particularly like the part where Rangle, the chairman of the House Ways and Means committee, whose job it is to actually write tax code, was so sloppy in his tax reporting that he neglected to include income he received from a vacation home in the Dominican Republic.

Funny, I thought only rich Republicans had such issues. I didn’t think that Democrats, being, you know, common folk like the rest of us, had to worry about the same sorts of things that the evil rich do. So darned many tax rules to keep track of…

I can see where the occasional property outside the United States might slip the good Representative’s mind. Being rich myself, I know that I sometimes forget about all the homes I own abroad. It’s hard to keep track of such minor details, you know when there are such pressing matters to tend to here at home, like evicting grandmothers from moldering cold-water flats, screwing blue-collar workers out of their hard-earned beer money and stealing candy from babies.

Of course, Rangle probably has little to worry about when it comes to ethics charges. In fact, while it is possible that the ethics panel could recommend his expulsion from the House, it isn’t likely. A previous four-person ethics investigatory panel recommended that he be given a formal reprimand. Either sentence will have to be voted on by the full house, which is currently controlled by Democrats until January 2011 when the new congress is seated. Anyone want to bet that a Democrat controlled House will vote to remove a Democrat who was just re-elected by a wide majority in an election that saw the largest loss of seats for either party in decades?

Which brings up an interesting question; if they did vote to remove him, would he simply take office again in January when the new Congress is seated? He was re-elected after all.

Which makes me wonder; why all the theater this week, with Rangle walking out of the trial, voicing an impassioned plea for a delay, claiming he needed time to hire and confer with an attorney? It isn’t like he hasn’t had plenty of time to do so up to this point; the trial didn’t just sneak up on him. And his claim that he has run out of money to pay his previous legal team, which reportedly cost him $2 million begs the question as to where he would come up with the money to hire a new lawyer to confer with?

Maybe he can sell that property in the Dominican Republic.

You would think that he would want to get this over with while he still has a congress that is likely to simply let him off with a slap on the wrist. A formal reprimand? Really? Ouch!

Earlier this year Rangle stated, regarding his actions “It may be stupid. It may be negligent. But it’s not corrupt.” Oh. I feel so much better. The chairman isn’t corrupt, he is merely stupid. And negligent. Just the person I want heading the House Ways and Means Committee!

While the walkout may have made him feel good, it didn’t do him much good; he was still convicted on 11 of the 13 counts today. To quote Chisam again, “if he had only followed the [fundraising] rules” laid out in the House ethics manual, he could have avoided any problems. If only. If only Charlie Rangle can read. Don’t forget his comment regarding reading legislation before it is passed, namely that it is impossible to do so.

Maybe he needs the “books on tape” version of the House ethics manual.

At 80 years of age, and faced with the prospect of becoming just another minority member of the House under Republican control, perhaps it would be a good time for Mr. Rangle to simply retire and let a younger and presumably less sloppy and negligent person have a shot at representing the people.