U.S. Representative Charlie Rangel has had ethics questions following him for years. Numerous charges against him are currently being considered by the ethics committee generally involving accusations of illegal corporate gifts and contributions and not abiding by tax laws.
In March, he finally stepped aside from his powerful chairmanship on the House Ways and Means Committee. This was said to be temporary, though most agree it will be permanent.
In 2006, the Democrats campaigned against the Republicans’ deep culture of corruption. Since gaining control of Congress, Pelosi and other Democratic leaders have been slow at best when it comes to holding their own members accountable and keeping their campaign promises. Under her leadership, the handling of ethics problems has looked too much like hypocrisy.
If the Democrats are going to maintain any credibility and integrity, they must be quick to respond to ethics problems. That does not mean assuming guilt before it is proven, however they must take affirmative action to begin addressing the problems and get ahead of the story. This is aside from the fact that one person (Rangel) should not be so arrogant and obsessed with power that they are unable to do what is best for their country, party, and cause.
This failure of leadership should result in a new Democratic leadership that will provide experience, effectiveness, and accountability. As I have indicated before, I believe Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, and Harry Reid should be replaced by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Rep. James Clyburn, and Senator Chuck Schumer, respectively. If Democrats retain control of both houses in 2010 as I expect they will, they need to demonstrate they understand the public’s frustration and begin to address it by first selecting new leadership.