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Rangel: Why Democrats still defend him

Charlie Rangel, the Democratic chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, is being investigated by two House subcommittees for a larcenous run that would have shamed Al Capone.

How corrupt is powerful New York Rep. Charles Rangel? asked Victor Davis Hanson in National Review Online. “Let us count the ways.” Rangel, the Democratic chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, the nation’s chief tax-writing body, is being investigated by two House subcommittees for a larcenous run that would have shamed Al Capone. House Republicans have demanded that he step down from his committee chairmanship, but standing in the way is Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who evidently has forgotten her pledge to “drain the swamp” of corruption that she said she inherited from Republicans. Rangel is a whole swamp unto himself. He used connections to amass not one but four rent-stabilized apartments in Manhattan, failed to pay taxes on $75,000 in income from a Caribbean villa he owns, and recently acknowledged that he somehow forgot to report up to $500,000 held in two checking accounts. All told, according to his spotty financial report, Rangel may be worth $2.5 million, said Charles Hurt in the New York Post. Somehow, a public servant making about $175,000 a year became a millionaire, with “more property than he can keep track of.”

Rangel’s not all bad, said Lexington in The Economist. Rangel was a certified “war hero” in Korea, who, while wounded, led 43 men to safety through enemy lines. His rise from poverty and “the streets of Harlem to the corridors of Congress is, in some ways, even more impressive.” In Congress, he’s been an effective champion of the poor and powerless, and helped found the Congressional Black Caucus; his admirers, therefore, “are appalled that such an immense figure might fall over a few instances of sloppy bookkeeping.” Yet if Democrats want “everyone to pay a fair share” of taxes, they must have “leaders who are seen to do likewise.” It’s unfortunate, but “Rangel should resign.”

Don’t bet on it, said Lisa Lerer and Jonathan Allen in Politico.com. Despite the ethics investigations, Rangel is as visible and vocal as ever. Democrats know that “dislodging him would touch off a contentious scramble for his gavel,” with no consensus on a successor. Party leaders also worry about angering Rangel backers in the Black Caucus, said Marc Ambinder in TheAtlantic.com. Nevertheless, Rangel could easily become an “albatross” for Democrats in the 2010 election. With 10 other Democratic congressmen under some kind of ethics or legal investigation, can Pelosi and friends afford to give Republicans a “solid anti-corruption narrative to run on”?

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