WASHINGTON - Common Cause hopes that the House Ethics Committee's decision to recommend a formal censure of Rep. Charles Rangel is a precursor to a new era of tough ethics enforcement in both houses of Congress.
"There’s no cause for celebration in the downfall of a man who has done as much good for as many people as has Charlie Rangel," said Bob Edgar, Common Cause’s president.
"But Congressman Rangel’s carelessness in managing portions of his official and personal business, including the use of his position to solicit charitable contributions for an academic center bearing his name, is a serious breach of Congress’ ethical standards," Edgar added.
"Mr. Rangel should have known it was wrong to ask for money, even in a good cause, from individuals and businesses with interests in legislation before the House – legislation he was well-positioned to directly influence."
Edgar said the committee’s decision is a hopeful sign that members of both political parties understand one of the messages of the 2010 election: Americans want their representatives to put the public interest ahead of personal interests.
"Still, it’s clear that this case – more than two years in the making – could and should have been resolved much sooner," Edgar said. He urged the incoming House leadership to preserve and strengthen the Office of Congressional Ethics, an independent investigative agency that was created after the Rangel case arose and so was not involved in it.
"The OCE has investigated dozens of complaints involving other members with speed and fairness, and without the partisan infighting and foot-dragging that marked the Ethics Committee’s work on the Rangel case," Edgar said. "Members will be making a serious mistake if they now disband or dismember this independent, non-partisan agency."
Common Cause is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization dedicated to restoring the core values of American democracy, reinventing an open, honest, and accountable government that works for the public interest, and empowering ordinary people to make their voices heard.