Washington, D.C.: Members of the Project 21 black leadership network are speaking out about the congressional "public admonishment" of U.S. Representative Charles Rangel (D-NY), the chairman of the powerful tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, for going on trips to the Caribbean paid for by corporate sources in violation of House rules.
Bishop Council Nedd II: "Contrary to what Charles Rangel believes, common sense dictates that adults, and elected representatives of the people in particular, need to be held responsible for their actions. Has Rangel completely lost touch with the real world? I have never been on a trip and not known who was paying for it. And if someone was paying for me to go on trips to the Caribbean, I don't think I would ever forget them." (Bishop Council Nedd II is the bishop of the Chesapeake and the Northeast for the Episcopal Missionary Church and a member of the national advisory council of the Project 21 black leadership network. Nedd is the author of the New Visions Commentary "Rangel Ethics Mess Feels Like History Repeating Itself" available at http://tw0.us/6dV.)
Jimmie Hollis: "As a lifetime politician, Charlie Rangel didn't seem to think the rules applied to him. They do, but it looks like he will be receiving the minimum punishment. It's a sad commentary on congressional ethics and on Speaker Nancy Pelosi's campaign promise to clean up Congress. Is this the way it has to be?" (Jimmie Hollis is a member of the national advisory council of the Project 21 black leadership network.)
Bob Parks: "I'm amazed it took 18 months for lawmakers to find wrongdoing, but not amazed at how long it took Congressman Rangel to blame it on his staff." (Bob Parks is the moderator of the web site "Black and Right" and a member of the national advisory council of the Project 21 black leadership network.)
Darryn "Dutch" Martin: "That Chairman Rangel refuses to take responsibility is bad enough. But the fact that he sees fit to blame his staff - who presumably take orders from him - is just lame. Yet again, liberal orthodoxy states that the rules that apply to everyone else do not apply to Rangel and his ilk." (Dutch Martin is a member of the national advisory council of the Project 21 black leadership network.)
The House Committee on Official Standards, better known as the Ethics Committee, has concluded Rangel improperly accepted trips to the Caribbean in 2007 and 2008. The Ethics Committee opened its investigation after receiving information from the National Legal and Policy Center.
Rangel reportedly will be forced to repay the cost of the trips. He is blaming the error on his staff, telling reporters, "Common sense dictates that members of Congress should not be held responsible for what could be the wrongdoing or errors of staff unless there's reason to believe that the member knew or should have known - and there's nothing in the record to indicate the latter."
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi spoke out in support of Rangel and against the proposition that lawmakers are responsible for their own activities, saying, "I think it's quite a statement to say that lawmakers can be held accountable for what their staff knew." She also has declined to ask Rangel to step down as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.
Rangel was elected to House in 1970, replacing Adam Clayton Powell, who also faced ethical problems, including questionable travel to Florida. Powell was stripped of his committee chairmanship.
Project 21, established in 1992, is sponsored by the National Center for Public Policy Research (http://www.nationalcenter.org), a non-profit foundation established in 1982 and funded primarily from the gifts of over 100,000 recent individual donors.
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