Did Rangel pay off Ethics Committee members? Update: WaPo says, "Time to go"

CBS goes after Charlie Rangel in a big way this morning by probing the embattled House Ways and Means chair over his connections to the very people evaluating his ethics.  The House committee is currently investigating Rangel for a series of false disclosures and tax evasions, but Rangel acts as though he has nothing to fear.  What does he know that we don’t?  CBS follows the money:

CBS 2 HD has learned of more alleged back-door dealings and political power peddling by Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel.

The reigning member of Congress’ top tax committee is apparently “wrangling” other politicos to get him out of his own financial and tax troubles. …

CBS 2 HD has discovered that since ethics probes began last year the 79-year-old congressman has given campaign donations to 119 members of Congress, including three of the five Democrats on the House Ethics Committee who are charged with investigating him.

Charlie’s “angels” on the committee include Congressmen Ben Chandler of Kentucky, G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina and Peter Welch of Vermont. All have received donations from Rangel.

Only Welch had the brains to realize how bad this looks.  He returned Rangel’s money — almost twenty thousand dollars.

This demonstrates the problems of having the House (and Senate) holding its members accountable for their actions.  In theory, it works great.  However, in practice, elected officials on Capitol Hill do plenty of backscratching, and Rangel gets a lot of contributions in defense of a safe seat.  That makes him powerful on the Hill, as he can dole out cash to allies and deny it to foes.  In this particular instance, Rangel is using it to corrupt an Ethics Committee investigation, which would be the height of irony everywhere else but Capitol Hill.

Nancy Pelosi has assured Rangel that he can keep his powerful chair on Ways and Means while Charlie’s Dirty Angels probes his ethics.  Once again, Pelosi delivers a culture of corruption rather than cleaning up Congress.  (via Michelle)

Update: The Washington Post editorial board has heard enough, even before this report:

FOR POLITICIANS with major bad news to release or to make public, there’s no time like the dead of August to do it. The thinking goes that the public won’t remember a thing come September. We hope Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.) will have no such luck. His belated revelation of previously unreported income, property and bank accounts demands that he step aside as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. …

Much is expected of elected officials. Much more is expected and demanded of those entrusted with chairmanships and the power that comes with them, especially when it involves the nation’s purse strings. From all that we’ve seen thus far, Mr. Rangel has violated that trust continually and seemingly without care.

This isn’t a new position for them, but the timing of their reminder is excellent.

Update II: Fixed the incorrect link to CBS.