New York's Democratic Representative Charles B. Rangel, chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee has a bit of an ethical issue.
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 wrote.
The good news: Last Wednesday, House Democrats blocked efforts by Republicans to force Rangel to step down from his chairmanship of the Ways and Means Committee until the cloud of ethical impropriety hanging over him is removed.
The bad news: "Assets and sources of income that [Rangel] omitted," The Times reported, "include a Merrill Lynch Global account valued at between $250,000 and $500,000, tens of thousands of dollars in municipal bonds and $30,000 to $100,000 in rent from a multifamily brownstone he owned."
Worse news: "Rangel has been under investigation by the House Ethics Committee since last year after The New York Times reported that he rented four rent-stabilized apartments in Harlem for thousands of dollars a month below market value, which some Congressional ethics experts say could be a violation of a rule forbidding members to accept gifts worth more than $100.
"He subsequently disclosed that he owed more than $10,000 in back taxes because he had failed to report more than $70,000 in rental income from a villa in the Dominican Republic."
"Representative John Carter, Republican of Texas," The Times said, "had sought Mr. Rangel's removal in a resolution that said national attention to financial lapses by the chairman of the tax-writing committee has 'held the House up to public ridicule.'
However, fellow 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 "have said that sloppy bookkeeping led him to file incomplete or inaccurate financial discloser forms," The Times reported. "A spokesman has said that the congressman has been taking steps to correct the errors."
Unfortunately, the fact remains that the chairman of the tax-writing committee has problems with his own taxes.
So, what would you do?
Would you side with those who favor Rangel stepping down (or being removed) from his committee assignments until the ethics investigation is completed? Or do you believe in a more legal definition - that one is innocent until proven guilty - and that Rangel should therefore, stay put until found guilty?
Let me know your thoughts. I'll post my opinion soon.
Jim Lichtman has been writing and speaking on ethics since 1995. His commentaries can be found at www.ethicsStupid.com