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Democrats disappoint with decision to back Rangel

There is perhaps no greater threat to public confidence in democratic institutions than hypocrisy. In 2009, there is perhaps no greater supply of brazen hypocrisy than that which is found in our nation’s capital.

This probably explains why the American people seem poised to either grab their pitchforks and torches or tune out completely.

Revelations about the actions of Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., and the House Democrats’ perplexing decision to close ranks behind him, perfectly exemplify this destructive behavior.

Rangel is the chairman of what is arguably the most powerful committee in all of Congress, the Ways and Means Committee. That’s the committee that writes all of the tax laws.

It was recently reported that Rangel underreported his income on his 2007 financial disclosure forms – by as much as $1 million. Missing from his disclosure papers were two bank accounts totaling between $250,000 and $500,000 each, as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of stocks and bonds. Rangel’s troubles don’t end there.

Several investment properties, from New Jersey to the Dominican Republic were left off his financial statement. Rangel reportedly owes property taxes on some of them.

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, the chairman of the tax committee – take a deep breath – didn’t pay his taxes!

But wait, there’s more: Rangel reportedly paid below market rates to rent four (four!) so-called rent-stabilized apartments in New York City. The owner of the residences is a Rangel contributor who has ties to companies that profit from evicting other, less well-connected rent-stabilization tenants.

Rangel is currently under investigation for these apparent ethical lapses.

What just might be worse than all of the above is that the Democratic leadership is standing by their (con) man.

To truly comprehend the scope of this hypocrisy, let us step back in time for a moment.

In the 2006 mid-term elections, a tsunami of Democratic victories ended the 12 dark years of Republican rule in Congress.

The GOP “culture of corruption” would finally face its day of reckoning, the enchanting sound of its death knell was in the air. A new dawn of transparency was at hand.

The new sheriff, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., was going to clean up the joint. The Democrats promised transparency and a strict code of ethics.

Soon after the 110th Congress convened, Speaker Pelosi promised the American people that the Democrats would “turn the most closed, corrupt Congress in history into the most open and honest Congress in history.” I don’t know about you, but my heart was aflutter.

Could it be? A responsive, progressive Congress that worked for the people instead of powerful special interests? A government that fought for workers instead of the corporations that exploit them? It almost sounded too good to be true. Of course, it was …

“Wait just a damn minute,” I hear my Conservative friends scream at the newsprint, “what about former Rep. Bill ‘cold cash’ Jefferson, D-La., who was himself the subject of a corruption probe?”

Calm down, I was getting to that.

Jefferson was caught red-handed – or frozen-handed? – with $90,000 of bribe money hidden in his freezer. Inexplicably, Jefferson was reelected.

This was sheriff Pelosi’s first test: Would she keep Congress clear of corruption, even if the pox was on her side of the aisle?

Pelosi passed with flying colors, ousting Jefferson from his prominent seat on the House Ways and Means Committee until the criminal investigation was complete.

Jefferson was convicted on several counts of corruption and lost his reelection bid in 2008.

Yet, Pelosi and the Democratic leadership stick with Rangel, saying they won’t remove him form his powerful perch on the Ways and Means Committee until the House Ethics Committee investigation is complete. This is the exact opposite of the position taken in Jefferson’s case.

Holy hypocrisy, Batman!

The Democrats failure to live up to their promises on adhering to transparency and good government fuels an increasing sense of apathy and bewilderment from rank-and-file progressives. We’re starting to feel like we got ripped off by corporatist clowns posing as populist pugilists.

The American people put the Democrats in power to right the wrongs the Republicans created, not emulate them. It’s time for real transparency. It’s time for authenticity to trump hypocrisy. It’s time for Charlie Rangel to go.

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