“No Man’s life liberty or property is safe while the legislature is in session”.

- attributed to NY State Judge Gideon Tucker

Monday, November 15, 2010

Charlie Rangel's Day of Reckoning

It looks like alleged income tax evader Charlie Rangel has finally run out of time. The Wall Street Journal noted, in an article in today's online edition,
"Mr. Rangel faces a congressional ethics proceeding on 13 separate counts, including failing to report assets, failing to pay taxes on rental income from a vacation property and misusing congressional stationery to try to raise money for a college center named in his honor. The 80-year-old lawmaker has represented New York City's Harlem neighborhood in the House since 1971 and had been the chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee until he was forced to step down in March."

Rangel has been, well, wrangling over these charges for several years. As the Journal article notes,

"He has spent two years and more than $2 million in legal fees dealing with the investigation of his finances. His legal team left the case last month when his campaign fund ran out of money to pay them. Mr. Rangel could, if he wanted, pay for a lawyer out of his own funds, but as a member of Congress, he can't accept pro bono work from an attorney.

Mr. Rangel said he needed more time to do so.

"You tell me all of the things I could do, but you won't give me the time to do it,'' he said. "I truly believe I am not being treated fairly.'' "

So it would seem that Rangel made a choice two years ago to try to run out a clock on the House Ethics committee. But this month's elections made that a losing strategy, with Republicans set to take control of the House come January.

Thus, the Journal piece reported,

"Rep. Charles Rangel walked out on his trial before the House ethics committee as it began Monday, saying it was unfair to ask him to continue without a lawyer that he couldn't afford.

"I am being denied the right to have a lawyer right now because I don't have the opportunity to have a legal-defense fund set up,'' the New York Democrat said. "I truly believe I am not being treated fairly.''

Mr. Rangel left the hearing room less than a half-hour after the proceedings began and didn't return. The case has been an embarrassment for Democrats who took control of the House in 2007 pledging to run the most ethical Congress in history.

The panel's eight lawmakers appeared to be taken aback by Mr. Rangel's abrupt departure, huddling privately to consider his request for a delay in the trial while he continues to seek a lawyer. They soon decided they would continue without him. "He has indicated that he does not intend to participate, and it is his right not to participate,'' said committee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren, (D., Calif.)."

That's rich, isn't it? Rangel got to use $2MM of campaign funds to pay for his defense. He chose to take two years to delay his trial. Now he claims to be ill-treated for being forced to continue with the case.
I hope he is treated justly in absentia. By that, I mean the same as any other private citizen would be treated in similar circumstances, for similar tax-related behavior.

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