Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Charles Rangel Ethics Mess: Another Thing Democrats Don't Need before Election

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Charles Rangel Ethics Mess: Another Thing Democrats Don't Need before Election

Article excerpt

Rep. Charles Rangel of New York says he won't resign his seat or drop out of his reelection race. A House trial on ethics violations may remind voters that Democrats haven't ended the 'culture of corruption' in Washington.

Just when the Democrats thought they had dodged one potentially explosive situation well before Election Day - the shorter-than- expected trial of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich - another irascible Democrat has reared his head, Rep. Charlie Rangel of New York.

The 20-term Congressman Rangel faces allegations by the House ethics committee, with specifics to be laid out next Thursday. But Democrats are already fearing the worst: that the prospect of a public trial right in the heat of midterms gives their brand the whiff of scandal, on top of the struggling economy and lack of public confidence in both the White House and Democratic-led Congress to solve the nation's problems. Democratic control of the House, in particular, is seen as being in jeopardy.

"The timing couldn't be worse for Democrats," says Peter Fenn, a Democratic communications strategist. "I think [House GOP leader] John Boehner would just love to see this go on for about 12 weeks."

At a press conference Friday in New York's Harlem, Rangel said he would not resign his House seat or drop out of his reelection race. Rangel also declined to respond to the allegations he faces, saying he will do so when the charges are made public next week. But in the past two years, a variety of ethics allegations have surfaced in the media, including use of a rent-controlled apartment as a campaign office (a violation of campaign finance laws), failure to report on his taxes the income from a villa in the Dominican Republic, and a pledge from an oil executive to make a donation to a foundation Rangel ran.

Some Democrats have expressed hope that the bipartisan ethics committee's process will demonstrate that the House's system of self- policing is working. …

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