I Believe Charlie Rangel

When he says “everybody else does it, too.”

Rangel helped create the Rangel Center for Public Service in 2004 to archive his papers and provide what potential donors were told would be a “well-furnished office for Congressman Rangel.” He secured federal earmarks totaling $1.6 million for the center. (His attorneys make clear that this, too, is accepted congressional practice.)

In addition to self-dealing with federal funds, at a time that he served as senior Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, Rangel sent out dozens of fundraising letters on his congressional stationery to a group of corporations and corporate-controlled foundations that included AT&T, JPMorgan Chase, Citibank, Goldman Sachs, AIG, Merrill Lynch & Co., Wachovia—all of which had “interests in tax matters overseen by the panel.” Also:

On three occasions … he discussed donations to his center with registered lobbyists: Melvin Norris, a former aide lobbying for Verizon Communications; George Nichols, a lobbyist for New York Life Insurance; and Edward Cloonan, a lobbyist for AIG.

We ought to know by now, surely, that Rangel is speaking the truth when he says everyone else does it—from my City Councilwoman with her boyfriend’s daughter drawing a full salary in her office—a neat trick for a student enrolled in college 3,000 miles away—to former Presidents with their ever-larger “Monuments to Me” Presidential Libraries littering the country.

It’s time to say “enough,” and go beyond trying to cut “waste” and “fraud.” Let’s just eliminate all the money and power at their disposal: they’ve shown they can’t be trusted, and now they’re even saying they can’t be trusted. Got it?

Mary L. G. Theroux is Senior Vice President of the Independent Institute. Having received her A.B. in economics from Stanford University, she is Managing Director of Lightning Ventures, L.P., a San Francisco Bay Area investment firm, former Chairman of the Board of Advisors for the Salvation Army of both San Francisco and Alameda County, and Vice President of the C.S. Lewis Society of California.
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