Democrat Dirty Laundry: Pelosi Gets Rangled Up in Ethics Web of Deceit

September 9, 2009

Pelosi Gets Rangled Up in Ethics Web of Deceit

Once Promising to End Corruption, Now Entangled In It


SPIN CYCLE: Pelosi Promised to Fight Corruption


“Democrats declare that it is time to end the culture of corruption prevailing through all levels of government. We are committed to immediate change to lead this country in a new direction, to put an end to business as usual, and to make certain this nation’s leaders serve the people’s interests, not special interests. Our responsibility to our constituents and to our nation is to represent all of the people, not just the powerful.” (Nancy Pelosi’s “A New Direction for America, Page 21)


RINSE CYCLE: But She Lied, Turning a Blind Eye to Possible Ethics Violations and Lies


The ethics spotlight on House Democrats is intensifying amid predictions from political analysts that Republicans will pick up many seats in next year’s midterm elections.



Democrats didn’t need any more bad news during an unusually bruising healthcare debate during the August break, but House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) attracted more headlines when he failed to disclose at least $650,000 — and possibly millions of dollars — in assets on required congressional forms.


Newspapers across the country — including The Washington Post — have called on Rangel to give up his Ways and Means post while the ethics committee evaluates the many ethics allegations that have been detailed in various media accounts.



“Allowing this to linger without resolution for this long is not healthy or good for anyone,” said Mary Boyle, a spokeswoman for the government watchdog Common Cause. “It’s not good for Rangel, it’s not good for the public and it’s not good for Congress as an institution.”


To make matters worse for Democrats, two central players in a defense earmark prosecution are set to be sentenced this fall. That will likely prompt new waves of media attention to Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), who requested the earmark at the heart of the case.


Pelosi has said she will take no action against Rangel or any other member unless the ethics committee recommends punishment or a prosecutor brings criminal charges.


As minority leader, Pelosi did not wait until formal charges were filed against then-Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.). But after an FBI investigation reportedly turned up $90,000 in Jefferson’s freezer and triggered concern from some House Democrats about the upcoming 2006 midterm elections, Pelosi removed Jefferson from the Ways and Means Committee. Jefferson was indicted on corruptions charges in 2007 and convicted this year.



Wanting to distance themselves from Rangel in 2008, a couple of Democrats either returned political contributions he gave them or donated the money to charity.


In mid-August, Charlie Cook, one of the best election analysts in politics, predicted that Democratic losses in 2010 could exceed 20 seats.


“These data confirm anecdotal evidence, and our own view, that the situation this summer has slipped completely out of control for President Obama and congressional Democrats,” he wrote. “Today, The Cook Political Report’s congressional election model, based on individual races, is pointing toward a net Democratic loss of between six and 12 seats, but our sense, factoring in macro-political dynamics, is that this is far too low.”


Pelosi has said she wants the ethics committee to be allowed to handle both the Rangel investigation and another probe into the nexus between defense earmarks and campaign contributions.


The panel is under intense pressure, especially when it comes to the Rangel matter, to reach a conclusion in some part of the case as quickly as possible. The Rangel investigation began more than a year ago at Rangel’s urging.


Originally, Pelosi predicted it would wrap up by the end of 2008, but after new reports of additional ethics allegations surfaced, the panel was forced to expand the probe at least twice.


The panel could decide to expand the investigation yet again — and may be able to wrap up work by the end of the year after hiring five lawyers and one senior investigator at the end of July who worked long hours over the recess getting settled into their jobs.


In the last two weeks, with the additional revelations of Rangel’s tax and financial problems, watchdogs are growing restless and mulling the possibility of calling for a special counsel to step in and take over the ethics investigation. Even though some good-government groups worry that appointing an independent counsel could turn back the clock on the entire probe, their patience for a conclusion — even a partial one — is growing thin.



With the new financial disclosure revelations and ethics investigative team finally in place, it would make sense for the committee to expand the investigation and give it more time to ensure that no stone is left unturned.


But if the final committee report analysis is perceived as weak, the panel will face new charges that it’s not living up to its claim of taking ethics matters more seriously than in previous Congresses, and Pelosi will face criticism from all sides that she failed to live up to her promise to “drain the swamp.” (Susan Crabtree, Ethics spotlight burns on House Dems, The Hill, 9/09/2009)


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