From the Toledo Blade…
Unplug the swamp
FOUR years after Nancy Pelosi vowed to drain the ethical swamp in the U.S. House, the soon-to-be ex-speaker and her shrinking Democratic caucus are faced with their biggest ethical embarrassment: Charles Rangel.
Although re-elected to a 21st term two weeks ago with 85 percent of the vote, the New York City congressman was found guilty this week by a panel within the House ethics committee on 11 counts of wrongdoing.
The charges include improperly using his office to seek donations, some from lobbyists, for a college center to be named for him; failing to report and pay taxes on rental income from a villa he owns in the Dominican Republic; improperly accepting from a Manhattan developer use of four rent-controlled apartments, one of which became his campaign office, and submitting financial disclosure forms with $600,000 in omissions.
Thursday, the ethics committee will hold a hearing on what punishment to recommend to the full House for Mr. Rangel.
While expulsion doesn't seem likely, it's the appropriate penalty for someone who has brazenly violated ethics rules. A formal censure, a fine, and the loss of certain House privileges would be a slap on the wrist.
Mr. Rangel, 80, could save his party and its embattled House leader a lot of trouble by resigning. He's been called on to do that anyway.
He's been deaf to such calls, but perhaps his political hearing has improved.
This is not to say that Democrats have had a monopoly on ethical shenanigans. Members of both parties have demeaned congressional service and deepened the public's cynicism toward elected officials. In fact, the money-laundering trial of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, a Republican, could wrap up Thursday.
Do the parties want to drain the swamp or not?
If Charlie Rangel won't do the right thing, then the House ethics committee should - and recommend that the House pull the plug.