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David R. Jones, Esq. Headshot

Concern for the Attacks on Rangel

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It must be hard to be an elected official today and ten times harder if you're a controversial one taking on unpopular causes for people without power. It seems to me that a whole generation of elected black officials is under scrutiny for financial improprieties and missteps. Some of them will appropriately be run out of office and subjected to legal prosecution - they deserve it.

But woven into some of these attacks is a much less savory motivation of moneyed elites systematically going after noncompliant black elected officials. Two of the leading targets are New York's Charlie Rangel and Congresswoman Maxine Waters of California - both have been accused not of graft or illegal activities, but rather of shoddy record keeping and failure to disclose possible conflicts. The mainstream media have been universal in their outrage. But instead of waiting for the findings of the House Ethics panel, they are already calling for Congressman Rangel to step down as chair of the House Ways and Means Committee because of the allegations.

If the national and New York media came to these editorial recommendations with clean hands no one could complain, but there can't be any doubt that in Rangel's case among the reason for the virulence of the attacks has been the Congressman's consistent call for higher taxes on the super wealthy. Even the most unscientific look at who owns the nation's major media, who they've supported politically, and their increasing willingness to allow their own personal interests to intrude on editorial positions, indicates that good government attacks on Charlie Rangel smell of self-interest. If you need any evidence of how flexible New York's media outlets are on issues of principle, the 180-degree turn they made on campaign finance reform and term limits in the most recent mayoral campaign are a good indication of how they can change position when "one of their own" is seeking power.

You would think that Rangel's service to the city and nation could have at least been mentioned in the call for his ouster. He's a Korean war hero, among the leaders in the delegation in getting critical funds for the city, sponsor of the Empowerment Zone legislation that benefited Harlem and cities across the nation, the prime mover in getting a half billion dollars in stimulus money for New York City's public housing, the major congressional defender of the rights of immigrants, and undoubtedly one of the most significant defenders of the rights of the poor in the nation. But plainly this wasn't enough for the billionaire owners of New York City's newspapers.

I'm concerned that standards seem to go out the window when it's convenient for New York's elite, but when it comes to those who cross them - watch out - morality and high ethical standards are everything.