Rangel conspiracy theories: one impossible, another almost certain
As conspiracy theories go, New York State Assemblymember Adam Clayton Powell IV's assertion that Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) is conspiring to choose his replacement for the seat he's held since 1971 is pretty rich. According to Powell, this diabolical plan calls for Rangel "to be reelected and then resign abruptly to appoint his successor." I wouldn't put it past Rangel to try something like this. If only it were remotely possible for him to do it or get away with it.
The problem with the Powell scenario is that a Rangel resignation would trigger a special election called by the governor. Under other scenarios, the likelihood of Rangel mischief in that case ranges from remote to none. And Rangel is so politically weak right now that his seal of approval could be the kiss of electoral death. That Powell is trying to unseat Rangel adds to the high-drama in Harlem. Rangel ran and won in 1970 against the ethically challenged incumbent, Rep. Adam Clayton Powell Jr. -- the father of the man now trying to keep Rangel from a 21st term in the House.
Rangel gave up the gavel as chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee after a wrist slap from the ethics committee last month. But there are more serious allegations that are being probed, such as how the man who helps to write tax laws somehow forgot to disclose two checking accounts that have up to $500,000 in them -- each. Now here's my not-so-far-fetched conspiracy theory. That ethics report won't see the light of day until after the November election, if ever. You think Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) wants that hot potato landing on her members in tight congressional races across the country? To release it now is to hand Republicans a juicy talking point that will resonate with struggling and frustrated voters tired of the gilded ways of Washington.
Come to think of it, this isn't a conspiracy theory. It's a political reality. And this leads to the second part of my hunch and where I'm in agreement with Powell. If Rangel is lucky enough to be entrusted with another two-year term, I wouldn't be surprised if he resigned before the end of that term, assuming he takes his seat in the 112th Congress at all. In this way, the man who appeared to play by his own rules gets to leave on his own terms, which is how he always wants it.
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