The Washington Examiner investigates the reach of Charlie Rangel among his fellow Democrats in the House and Senate and provides a pretty clear picture why Rangel’s not exactly sweating his ethics trial. While a number of officeholders have pledged to rid themselves of Rangel’s cash, Mark Hemingway lists dozens members Congress who have yet to divest themselves accordingly, although his initial list seems to be somewhat inaccurate:
At least 52 Democratic members of Congress — including nine senators and 43 congressmen — are hanging on to more than $403,000 in donations they received from embattled former House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., during the 2008 election cycle.
Those 52 are in marked contrast to the 27 incumbent Democrats who earlier this year returned $378,000 in campaign donations from Rangel’s political action committee, including nine who returned $165,000 but only after being asked about the funds by The Examiner.
Some of the people mentioned on the original list already dumped the cash. Brad Ellsworth, who is running for the Senate seat left open by Evan Bayh’s retirement, said the money would be donated to charity more than ten days ago:
Rep. Brad Ellsworth, the Democratic Senate nominee in Indiana, released a statement Friday saying that he is donating past campaign contributions he received from Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) to charity. …
“The bottom line, with Mr. Rangel or with anyone else in public office, is that actions have consequences,” Ellsworth said. “Those who violate the public’s trust must be held accountable and punished appropriately for their behavior. In light of these serious charges, there must be a thorough and expeditious trial.”
As it turns out, Ellsworth did donate the cash, as Hemingway appended this correction later:
UPDATE/CORRECTIONS: Rep. Peter Welch, D-VT, Rep. John Hall, D-N.Y., Rep. Bobby Bright, D-Ala., Rep. Glenn Nye, D-Va., Rep. Brad Ellsworth, D-Ind., Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., and Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., Rep. Betsy Markey, D-Colo., Rep. Chris Carney, D-PA, Rep, Kathleen Dahlkemper, D-PA, Rep. Joe Sestak, D-PA, and Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-PA should not have been included in this listing, as they have either returned Rangel donations or given them to charities.
The list provides a few embarrassing moments for House Democrats. Heath Shuler is barely hanging onto a one-point lead in his North Carolina district, and apparently still hanging onto his $5000 in Charlie Cash. Steve Dreihaus has an uphill battle already in convincing his constituents that he’s both clean and moderate, while keeping a firm grip on $10,000 Rangel in Rangelbucks.
The upper chamber isn’t immune, either. Most curious is Al Franken, from my state of Minnesota. He won’t stand for re-election for another four years, unfortunately, and has plenty of Hollywood connections for fundraising. Why hang onto $10,000 in Rangelbucks for a campaign that will probably spend more like two or three million dollars? For that matter, why is the popular Mark Warner in Virginia feeling a need to hold the same amount from Rangel?
This does show, however, how Rangel (and others) build influence in Washington DC. They raise money in districts that have no threat of turning out the incumbent, and then float the money to more competitive races. Both parties do it, of course, and so do eventual presidential candidates. It’s hardly illegal and not even terribly objectionable, as long as the money is clean and not the result of corruption. It does, however, show that accountability is nearly impossible in some Congressional districts thanks to gerrymandering that makes them completely non-competitive. If all districts were equally competitive, or at least if people offered primary challenges in less-competitive districts, Rangelbucks wouldn’t be floating to Minnesota, Indiana, North Carolina, and so on.
Update: We’ve been trying to contact some other people on the list for comment. The communications director for Pat Murphy’s campaign responded to intern Amy Ritter:
Congressman Patrick Murphy broke with his party and called on Rangel to resign. He has donated those contributions to a charity organization – Philadelphia Stand Down – that provides services for homeless and at-risk veterans.
And so did Joe Donnelly’s campaign before Hemingway’s update:
In April and May, Joe donated to service organizations in all twelve of the district’s counties a total amount equal to what he had received from Congressman Charlie Rangel.
Betsy Markey’s campaign responded, also before Hemingway’s update/correction list:
Our campaign is donating $7,000 to a local charity.
We’ll post more responses as we get them.
Update II: Shuler’s office tells Amy that funds were received from Rangel during 2005-2007, all of which were donated to district charities in March. An additional amount was discovered after the other funds, and that amount was donated as well.
Update III, 8/4: Kathy Dahlkemper’s campaign responded last night:
We donated all the funds rec’d from Rep. Rangel the day the ethics committee made their ruling. The total rec’d was $14,000 and we donated it to 4 area non-profits who work with children. 3 rec’d $4000 each and 1 rec’d $2000. As an aside we also donated a $2000 contribution from Rep. Waters to a local non-profit. Thank you for checking.