What do Democratic Party leaders get for the man who has singlehandedly put a corruption bullseye on the backs of his colleagues in competitive districts and refuses to step aside to give them cover?  A birthday party, of course!  And not just a birthday party to honor the man who will face the first House ethics trial in eight years, but a fundraiser for his campaign:

Democratic leaders and major party donors plan to hold a lavish 80th birthday gala for Charles Rangel at The Plaza Hotel in Manhattan next month, despite 13 ethics charges pending against the veteran lawmaker.

Lobbyists and other party donors received invitations this week to join Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and New York Gov. David Paterson at one of New York’s finest hotels to celebrate Rangel’s birthday.

Gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg are also listed as featured guests, according to an invitation viewed by The Hill. …

While some Democrats think Rangel has become politically radioactive in Washington, the invitation lists a variety of enticements to get people to show up to his birthday bash and contribute to his campaign.

Aretha Franklin, the “Queen of Soul,” will serenade them and guests who pony up $200, $500, $1,000 or $2,500 for tickets. The funds will go to the Rangel Victory Fund, a campaign account.

With Adam Clayton Powell IV challenging Rangel in the primary, some may wonder why these big-name Democrats are choosing to raise funds for Rangel anyway.  Why not let the primary play itself out first?  Powell could pull off an upset and get them off the hook for Rangel’s multiple ethics violations and perhaps make the ethics trial moot.

The answer is that the money Rangel raises will not just stay with Rangel, although that may be somewhat less true in this cycle.  The former chair of Ways and Means has long used his campaign funds to spread the wealth — and spread his influence.  He gets Democrats elected in places where they may have had difficulty by dropping big transfers of cash into their coffers.  Once they get elected, Rangel has IOUs that he can call in whenever he needs.

Basically, Schumer, Gillibrand, Cuomo, and Bloomberg are using Rangel to push money out to other Democrats as well as trying to rescue Charlie from himself.  That’s something that voters should consider when these candidates run in their own elections.  When it came down to it, they’re more interested in the money than in cleaning out corruption.

Oh, and the best part?  As The Hill points out, Rangel’s birthday is actually June 11th, while this fundraiser is being held on August 11th.