On Monday afternoon, United States Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) announced he was suing six members of the House for allegedly mishandling Ethics Committee proceedings that led to his censure. The decision means that more tax dollars will need to be spent on building and promoting Rangel’s legacy.
In December 2010, a Democratically-controlled House voted to censure Rep. Charles Rangel on 11 counts of financial wrongdoing. Among the charges were that he had concealed hundreds of thousands of dollars in income, filed misleading financial disclosure reports with the IRS, improperly sought contributions for a $30 million "Rangel Center" in New York, and generally violated the spirit of ethical behavior in the House.
Though it is too early to be certain of all details, Rangel's complaint seems to object more to the procedure of the investigation than to the fact of his violations. The complaint states that the investigation was not "conducted in accordance with procedural rules and the protection of [Rangel's] constitutional rights."
It remains to be seen whether the objection will bring anything more substantive to the table. The Democratic majority voted to censure Rangel 333-79, and a vote to downgrade its severity to a reprimand failed by 267-146.
Rangel ultimately paid $10,422 in back taxes to the IRS, $4,501 to New York state, and a civil fine of $23,000 to the Federal Election Commission (FEC). Ironically, his spokeswoman said he paid the FEC fine not because he was guilty, but because he didn't "want to go through the arduous process and expense" of proving he wasn’t guilty.
Yet for someone trying to save his money, Rangel seems strangely content to sue six members of the House three years after his censure. The suit includes House Speaker John Boehner; Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren; and Republicans Michael McCaul, Mike Conaway, Charlie Dent, Jo Bonner, and Gregg Harper.
Maybe he was inspired by how much of his own money he only recently discovered. As the Wall Street Journal opined, "When normal people happen to 'find' their own money, it might mean a twenty left in a winter coat, or discovering change beneath the sofa cushions. But if you're Charlie Rangel, it means doubling your net worth."
In fact, it meant discovering that he had between $1.028 million and $2.495 million, where his previous statements had displayed a net worth of just $516,015 to $1.316 million.
Coincidentally, Rangel complained just last week that the rich are not taxed enough. Particularly in light of the fact that taking care of his legal complaints will mean spending more tax dollars, we can justifiably wonder how much more of his income Rangel has been contributing since he discovered the extra million.
Of course, Rangel is free to do what he wants with his money. Where that may previously have meant building a center inscribed with his name, it now means fighting to clear his congressional legacy. But it is a shame to see a congressman who feels so free to take from the public trough be so miserly in contributing.