The Censure of Rep. Charles Rangel: Statement of Meredith McGehee, Campaign Legal Center Policy Director


Today, Representative Charles Rangel was found guilty of hubris.  Hubris in a powerful public official is especially damaging because it sends a message that a so-called public servant feels he is above the law.  Despite, or perhaps even because of, a long and distinguished career as a public servant, Representative Rangel did not take the rules House or even U.S. tax laws seriously enough to ensure that he was obeying them.  His disturbing pattern of violations showed he felt he was too busy and too important to be bothered with abiding by the rules.  He cared more about enjoying the privileges and perks of public office than apparently giving more than a passing thought to examining his own behavior and upholding the ethical standards of the institution he professes to love.  In the end he left his colleagues in the House little choice but to vote for his censure.

 Today’s vote does not show that the House ethics process is fixed.  The Committee, like the full House was left with virtually no alternative but to recommend censure in light of the facts.  But that recommendation and tonight’s vote should not be held up as an example of why the Office of Congressional Ethics is redundant.  It is not.  The OCE has served to wake the ethics committee from years of inaction by bringing transparency and by extension some semblance of accountability, to the ethics process.  If the OCE is done away with or weakened as many Members would prefer, the ethics process will be dragged back behind closed doors and inevitably the will be even more sad tales of hubris like Representative Rangel’s.