Monday, August 2, 2010

We’re puzzled and sad...

Sometimes I wish I could become a tiny flying insect (a lady bug?) and oh-so-quietly and innocently fly into the inner rooms of the Congressional Office buildings and learn things that mystify me.  And mystified I certainly am.
The “ethics” issues with Charlie Rangel and Maxine Waters puzzle me.  The New York Times has been writing about Rangel’s rent-controlled apartments and tax dodges for at least a year.  For about two years I’ve seen the charge that Maxine Waters pushed the feds for financial help for OneUnited, the minority-owned and operated bank that her husband was once involved with.  Why bring it up again right now?  Are the ten members of the bipartisan Congressional Ethics committee concerned that, if they don’t jump on these two long-time liberal Democrats, they will have trouble in their own re-election campaigns?  It certainly smells of Election Year Politics, doesn’t it?
It is particularly troubling when there are no Congressional members of color on that committee.  There are two female members, including the Democratic co-chair Zoe Lofren, but no Afro-American.  Yes, I know we’re supposed to be in a “post-racial” period in our history, but the recent Sherrod affair should have put that admirable thought to rest for a while until we have some proof that we’ve actually achieved it.  I know what it feels like when all-male authorities-- jurists, preachers, priests, rabbis, legislators--make decisions about my female body.  I can only imagine what Maxine and Charlie are feeling now facing an all-white ethics committee.
Rangel and Waters are two longtime members of Congress.  Rangel has been in the House since 1971 and Waters since 1991.  Rangel is accused of 13 counts of tax evasion and misuse of rent stabilization apartment law.  Waters is accused of undue influence in setting up a meeting with then Secretary Paulson and OneUnited, a minority-owned bank in which her husband owned stock.  Waters has said that her husband had been on the board of directors and as such had been required to own stock.  She claims that when the meeting took place her husband no longer served on the bank’s board.
We first wrote about Maxine Waters over a year ago.  [Here]  We titled that blog “Here we go again...” and wasn’t that prophetic?
While all of this fuss has gone on about so-called ethical issues with two fierce fighters for liberal causes and for their constituents, a federal grand jury is meeting on charges against Senator John Ensign of Nevada.  It seems that Ensign had an affair with a member of his staff, Cynthia Hampton, who was married to another staffer.  When said affair blew up in everyone’s face, Ensign’s parents paid the couple $96,000.  Ensign has admitted this, but what the grand jury is investigating is whether Ensign called around to lobbying firms to get the staffer a job.  This latter activity is against the law.  
Last week the Senate passed a resolution allowing other Ensign staff members to talk to the grand jury about Ensign’s efforts to get his ex-employee a job.  (According to TPM [Here], the staffers have already admitted that Ensign knew what he was doing was illegal.)  Also, Sen. Tom Coburn (R, OK) has already turned in 1,200 pages of email to the feds on this issue.  
By the way, both Ensign and Coburn were residents of that infamous C-Street building, owned by the mysterious rightwing, Christian group known as the “Fellowship.”  [Here]  Yes, the story gets stickier, doesn’t it?  And yet, is there any press interest in this now?  I guess it all broke a while back and the msm is off to more recent roadkill.  But Maxine’s story certainly isn’t juicy.  It isn’t sexy.  It probably will just fizzle, but it will leave a decidedly unpleasant odor in the air.
And what about 80-year old, 20-term Congressman Charlie Rangel?  Obama has called the charges “very troubling” and hopes that Rangel will be able to end his career with dignity.  [Here]   (My mother told me that if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything.  But that was a long, long time ago.)  Why do I keep remembering that both Rangel and Waters were staunch Hillary supporters?
I suspect Rangel might retire, but I can’t think that Maxine-the-fighter will go down without swinging.  
They both deserve better than this...

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