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Yet another reason for Congressional term limits: Charles Rangel 2010-Jul-23 at 13:13 PDT

Posted by Scott Arbeit in Blog.
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From House Panel Will Try Rangel in Ethics Cases, by Eric Lipton and David Kocieniewski, 22-July-2010:

A House investigative panel has found “substantial reason to believe” that Representative Charles B. Rangel violated a range of ethics rules, dealing a serious blow to Mr. Rangel, a Harlem Democrat, in the twilight of his political career.

The finding means that he must face a public trial before the House ethics committee, the first member of Congress to be forced to do so since 2002, when Representative James A. Traficant Jr. was expelled from Congress after a corruption conviction.

The investigative panel did not disclose any details about the nature of the violations.

But two Democrats with knowledge of the investigation said the committee found evidence to support accusations that Mr. Rangel, 80, wrongly accepted four rent-stabilized apartments in Manhattan and misused his office to preserve a tax loophole worth half a billion dollars for an oil executive who pledged a donation for an educational center being built in Mr. Rangel’s honor.

The committee also found evidence to support a charge that Mr. Rangel failed to report or pay taxes on rental income from his beachfront Dominican villa.

They are among the most serious of the assortment of charges against Mr. Rangel that the panel has been examining for nearly two years.

If you didn’t grow up under the influence of New York City media outlets, like I did, you might not understand how big Charles Rangel is.  He’s almost like Ted Kennedy was to Massachusetts.  Big guy.

And, with that role, a swelled head.  A belief, after 20 terms in Congress, that his power within that body means that he can violate the law for his own gain.  And he’s hardly the only example… he just crossed the line where others merely skirt it.

I cannot, for the life of me, imagine what purpose beyond ego is served by someone serving 20 terms in Congress.  I further cannot imagine what would make this man, facing a public ethics investigation in the House of Representatives, think that his personal interests are more important than those of Congress, his political party, or his constituents, and therefore decide still to run for his 21st term.

Look, I’m not trying to single out Rep. Rangel.  I know he’s done a lot of good for Harlem over the years.  But this is exactly what happens when people forget that Congress doesn’t exist for personal aggrandizement.

How do we not get into this kind of mess ever again?  Change the Constitution to create term limits for Congress.  Two full terms in the Senate, six full terms in the House, and that’s it.  We’ll even have a grandfather clause in the amendment to exempt current members from the new rules.  But we need to start the flow into Congress of people who go in already knowing that they won’t be there forever… and so they’ll be more likely to make the difficult political votes knowing that they might lose their seat for it.

And they’ll be younger, more energetic, less about personal ego, less about getting caught up in the machine, more likely to be independent, and more willing to compromise, because not every issue is a life-and-death struggle between the two parties.  It’ll take about a decade after the amendment is passed to really change the culture there, because of the necessary grandfather clause, but it will change.

And since it will take about a decade to change that culture, and at least a decade from now to get the amendment ratified… we can’t start too soon.