When Charlie Rangel ended up with a censure on the House floor after the House Ethics Committee found him guilty of a wide range of misconduct, most of us scoffed at the punishment. A censure is the middle ground of Congressional punishments — basically a strongly-worded memo read aloud while the guilty stands on the floor. Schoolchildren who clean erasers in detention get punished more profoundly for their transgressions. The experience was so politically damaging that Rangel only won his last election by 85 … points.
Under these circumstances, most men would walk away laughing. Not Charlie Rangel, however, who has filed a lawsuit against John Boehner and a half-dozen of his colleagues to overturn his censure:
Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel is suing Speaker John Boehner and six other lawmakers, alleging problems with the House ethics investigation that led to his censure in 2010.
In a complaint filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Washington, the New York Democrat alleges “numerous, flagrant, knowing and intentional violations” of his due process rights. …
The lawsuit names Boehner; Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., who was chairwoman of the House ethics committee at the time of the censure; and other committee members and staff. The congressman alleges that evidence was withheld by the committee staff.
In December 2010, the House voted 333-79 to censure Rangel for multiple ethical misdeeds — including failing to pay taxes for 17 years on rental income from his villa in the Dominican Republic and soliciting donations from companies with business before the Ways and Means Committee while he was chairman. The donations were going to a center being built in Rangel’s honor at the City College of New York.
Politico reports that the source of Rangel’s complaint comes from a memo withheld by the committee that was written by Rangel’s former staffers criticizing the process:
Had Rangel known about the memo, the lawsuit says, he would’ve immediately moved to dismiss the investigation.
But, er …
The censure covered a wide range of activities, including using a rent-controlled apartment in Harlem as a campaign office, using congressional stationary and staff to solicit funds for an academic center named after Rangel and failing to pay taxes on rental income for 17 years.
Ironically, Rangel is taking a page out of the playbook of the man he unseated 43 years ago. Adam Clayton Powell won a Supreme Court ruling that overturned a House punishment — although in that case, Powell had been expelled for corruption, rather than being forced to endure a memo reading on the House floor.
Why is Rangel wasting time with this, especially since it will once again bring attention to all of the charges for which he got punished? Maybe he’s just bored and wants to see his name in the headlines. Either that, or he really likes hearing his name on the House floor, so much so that he’d like to get censured all over again.