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Ethics probe race angle is ridiculous

There’s a troubling storyline to the ethical travails faced by Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.). Both The Post and Politico ran stories Monday that highlight concern that African American lawmakers are facing added scrutiny. Some would say they are being targeted. And I would say that’s absolutely ridiculous.

First, it should be pointed out that neither Rangel nor Waters has made this claim. Nor has there been an official statement to this effect by the Congressional Black Caucus. Although, CBC member and House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) pretty much gave the theory some credence on “Morning Joe” today. And an anonymous CBC member told Politico that there is a “dual standard, one for most members and one for African-Americans.”

As an African American, I know and understand the sensitivity to unfair prosecution and persecution of blacks in the court of law and the court of public opinion. The reflex to speak against a rush to judgment is as innate as a flinch from fire. But there are times when that sensitivity can blind us to very real questions that have nothing to do with race. In the cases of Rangel and Waters, I have to agree with a tweet by NBC News political director Chuck Todd. Their troubles have to do with “entrenched entitlement.”

Rangel has held his Harlem congressional seat for 40 years. Waters has represented South Central Los Angeles for nearly 20 years. To read the alleged violations by Rangel and Waters is to go into a familiar world of power, access and perks. Rules of conduct were established to guard against abuse and excess. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) formed the Office of Congressional Ethics in 2008 as part of her promise to drain the swamp of corruption in the House. That two powerful, high-ranking and highly regarded members of her own party are facing rigorous scrutiny shows Pelosi meant business. Thankfully, a misguided effort to weaken the OCE by Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) has gone nowhere.

The proceedings of the ethics committee are supposed to be secret. Only when charges are filed does it become public. But journalists and good government organizations, such as Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), make it their business to keep the public informed. In fact, CREW has an “Under Investigation” site that chronicles the allegations against House and Senate members and where things stand. As you will see, the ethics committee is an equal opportunity investigator.

By Jonathan Capehart  | August 2, 2010; 4:53 PM ET
Categories:  Capehart  | Tags:  Jonathan Capehart  
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Per the Politico story, "At one point ear­lier this year, all eight law­mak­ers under for­mal inves­ti­ga­tion by the House ethics com­mit­tee, includ­ing Rangel and Waters, were black Democ­rats." Any other time, liberals would be screaming racism when faced with such disproportionality. Plus, I'm really surprised that Waxman isn't insisting that an equal number of Republicans are not being investigated.

It's not FAIR.

Posted by: kitchendragon50 | August 2, 2010 6:24 PM | Report abuse

Let's see last go round white Republicans were the one's being investigated, remember Visser, Cunningham and others? I'd personally love to see a white Irish congressman from Northern Virginia with a history of ethical myopia get hauled up on ethics charges. That would certainly stop the cries of racism.

Posted by: genericrepub | August 2, 2010 6:57 PM | Report abuse

You're totally right Capehart.

Posted by: slatt321 | August 2, 2010 8:27 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Capehart, Your words ring true. It's especially refreshing to hear an African-American have the courage to speak the truth. I'm sure that you are under pressure to not speak out against this. Thank you for your objectivity.

Posted by: barrysal | August 2, 2010 11:36 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Capehart, Your words ring true. It's especially refreshing to hear an African-American have the courage to speak the truth. I'm sure that you are under pressure to not speak out against this. Thank you for your objectivity.

Posted by: barrysal | August 2, 2010 11:38 PM | Report abuse

I'm sick of black's cries of racism!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: Jmacaco4 | August 3, 2010 3:43 AM | Report abuse

Ezra Klein & friends say call the GOP recist to deflect the blame.

Posted by: Jmacaco4 | August 3, 2010 3:49 AM | Report abuse

I am encouraged when I read articles such as this. Race has been used as a political tool so much in the past two years that it has lost its meaning. Future legitimate race claims will fall on deaf ears because of political manipulation.

Posted by: bethg1841 | August 3, 2010 7:44 AM | Report abuse

Yes Johnathan, thank you for your consistency in making nonblacks, "comfortable."

Oh wait, aren't you the same person who expressed the idea that Obama can't be an "angry black man"?

Now where's your evidence to support this?

Based on your pov, we can conclude that blacks in congress are more corrupt than their nonblack counterparts.

That's right, we are more likely to illegal activity on the streets AND w/in the halls of congress aye?

Posted by: dcis1 | August 3, 2010 10:08 AM | Report abuse

Capehart is clearly a misguided journalist that lacks the ability to see racism in the fact that most if not all the members under investigation by the Committee on Standards are black. There is a concentrated effort in Congress to paint the black community as unethical, lying, cheats. Capehart, you're part of the black community just in case you've forgotten.

The charges against Congresswoman Waters is not only unfounded but intentionally capricious. This is from first hand knowledge of the situation.

Rep. Fudge was correct in highlighting the systemic problem with the process that must be corrected. It never fails to amaze me how TARP was designed at the urging of a few large institutions over a weekend, but when you have small institutions asking for the same treatment they're asking for a "hook up".

We should not forget that intent must be proven. To objectively read the allegations, it is clear the meeting was requested and set up for the National Banker's Association (NBA). As with many small trade associations throughout the country, the NBA is comprised of executives within institutions that they represent. The Chairman-elect requested the meeting with Treasury. The Chairman-elect along with the General Council attend the meeting with Treasury on behalf of the trade association (see P.10 of the report). The Congresswoman simply placed a call to the Secretary of Treasury as a follow up to the letter already sent from the TRADE ASSOCIATION. There is a board at the Trade Association that determines what is allowed.

It is clear that the Chairman-elect did not surpass his authority by sending the letter. It is clear that the Congresswoman did not surpass her authority or act unethically by placing a call to the Secretary of Treasury as a follow up to the letter sent on behalf of a small TRADE ASSOCIATION. Clearly there was no intent to benefit because she had no financial interest in the TRADE ASSOCIATION.

I also find your editorial board to be irresponsible in suggesting that Chairman Frank put language in the TARP Bill to benefit One United instead of a class of institutions. Where is One United noted in the legislation? Please let us all know!!!

Posted by: Resonate08 | August 3, 2010 10:43 AM | Report abuse

Paint all people with the 5 colors of the Olympic and judge them on what they have done.

Posted by: IGotAComment | August 3, 2010 11:23 AM | Report abuse

to ALL,

personally, i'd like to see ALL of the congress-critters investigated/REMOVED & a CITIZEN's CONGRESS be installed, with:
1. salaries set by their district/state,
2. NO perks of office that are NOT available to EVERY American,
3. a 20% or greater across the board CUT in the federal budget,
(there's so much WASTE,FRAUD & ABUSE in the current budget that REAL services wouldn't have to lose a dime.)
4. NO gifts, expense accounts, airplanes and/or campaign donations from ANYBODY outside the group of people who elected them.
5. a cut in Congressional staffs to less than 50% of the current total.

MOST people i know DESPISE the congress, the bureaucrats & the denizens of the WH, because they are SELF-important, prideful,(MOSTLY DISHONEST!) ELITISTS & have forgotten that "public servant" means PRECISELY THAT = the "elected/appointed/hired servants of the public" should SERVE us, rather than RULE OVER us and/or serve THEMSELVES.

yours, TN46

Posted by: texasnative46 | August 3, 2010 1:01 PM | Report abuse

The best defense is a good offense? What some blacks in Congress are doing is just trying to take the emphasis off two probably very guilty memebers of the Black Caucus.

Usually by the time it comes to a trial, the accused person has gotten away with a lot.

Look at Alcee Hastings and Jefferson from La. I'd say proportionately black members of Congress have been well represented in blatant and wrong acts, compared to their numbers in Congress.

Ignorance is no defense. Nor is an accusation of racism. That attack has worn thin.

Ser the trials begin! I hope they are televised.

Posted by: mlemac | August 3, 2010 1:06 PM | Report abuse

It must be tuff being a lapdog for whites. Gotta pay those bills don't you JDOG.

Posted by: Tright | August 3, 2010 9:58 PM | Report abuse

Thank you, Jonathan. People have to look at the charges made against these people. Does anyone seriously think that a white man who committed the crimes Jefferson committed would not be subject to ethics charges?

Maxine's behavior was an outright conflict of interest. Barney Frank told her so and offered to help her husband's bank, which would have made sense since the Bank is located in MA and Barney's an MA congressman. Had Barney pushed for TARP aid for her husband's bank, no one would have even blinked. Instead, for some strange reason, she declined this offer. Why?

They are still investigating Ensign because they keep finding more and more damaging material. His day will come.

Posted by: Afraid4USA | August 4, 2010 8:25 AM | Report abuse


You state (correctly) that intent must be proven.

If so, then shouldn't we regard the claims of your first paragraph (that there is a conscious effort to potray blacks in a certain manner) as (at the very least)unproven.

Posted by: ablum1 | August 4, 2010 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Mr Capehart; all,

"The short answer" is that these are just TWO, of the MANY crooks in the US Congress, who (if convicted) NEED to be IMPRISONED.

their skin-color has NOTHING whatever to do with their patent DISHONESTY or ARROGANT disregard for the LAWS
i'd bet everything that i have in my pocket that "if things get tough" that they will both CLAIM racism is the cause of their problems!

yours, TN46
coordinator, CCTPP

Posted by: texasnative46 | August 4, 2010 5:54 PM | Report abuse

A charge of racism would be reminiscent of Phil Spector's claiming his prosecutor was Adolf Hitler. Possible the reticence of the representatives adumbrates incipient resignations.

Posted by: Martial | August 4, 2010 11:16 PM | Report abuse

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