Friday, 10 December 2010 00:00Congressman Charles B. Rangel’s protest and walkout of the House Ethics Committee is a mockery not merely of the House of Representatives but of our justice system as a whole. Mr. Rangel is both an attorney and a lawmaker. He represents a District in Harlem, still a downtrodden, poor neighborhood in many respects. Mr. Rangel stated before the Committee that he could not afford counsel. There is, of course, no assignment of counsel system in place for civil cases or for a purported indigent Congressman who makes two hundred thousand dollars per year in Congressional salary plus benefits and other perks.
Mr. Rangel was the Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, the most powerful committee in Congress and responsible for passing our tax laws. How could Congressman Rangel serve in such a position if he deliberately under reported his own income or evaded taxes?
The indigent people of this nation are in desperate need of the assignment of counsel in civil cases. After two years of an investigation Rangel comes forward after Election Day and on the day of his trial stating that the proceedings are unfair, that he cannot afford counsel and then walking out. His comments and walkout should be the subject of additional charges including contempt of Congress. Those charges may in fact be more serious than those of which he has already been found guilty. He should be expelled from Congress due to his obvious contempt of it. He has placed his own interests above those of his constituents.
When former Congressman Adam Clayton Powell represented that same District four decades ago, his removal from Congress was considered by many to be an attack against him as an outspoken advocate for civil rights. Today there is a main thoroughfare named after him that passes through the center of his old District. Such honors should not be given to Mr. Rangel. His constituents need to understand the difference between an elected representative who is an advocate for them and one like Mr. Rangel who is an advocate for himself alone. Mr. Rangel has compromised his own effectiveness beyond repair. He should resign now.
Thomas F. Liotti
Attorney, Village Justice