How Michael Grimm (R-NY) won re-election to the House in November may be the greatest political mystery of 2014, having tax-evasion and fraud charges as well as a televised threat to a journalist hanging over his head. After all, his NY-11 district has only an R+2 Cook rating, so it’s not as though it resembles a district like … oh, Charlie Rangel’s D+41 NY-13, for example. Having prevailed despite those handicaps, Grimm refuses to resign his office even after pleading guilty to felony tax evasion:
Grimm faces up to three years in prison for a tax evasion scheme that concealed revenue and off-the-books cash payments to undocumented workers at the Healthalicious restaurant he co-owned and managed.
After pleading guilty, Grimm said he would not resign but also sounded apologetic.
“I am truly, truly sorry for the mistakes that I made. … As long as I am able to serve I am going to serve, as of right now I am still in the capacity to serve,” Grimm said Tuesday.
House Speaker John Boehner withheld comment until speaking with Grimm. House Republicans said Grimm’s future would likely be decided after the Christmas holiday.
No doubt many House Republicans wish Grimm would leave on his own, too. The GOP already cut him loose for the re-election cycle after it became clear that Grimm would not step aside. He still managed to win his R+2 district by 13 points even with no help, which speaks volumes about the quality of his Democratic competition. Nancy Pelosi demanded that John Boehner provide a do-over by somehow forcing Grimm to resign:
“Now that the election is over, Congressman Grimm is finally admitting the truth to his constituents,” Pelosi said in a statement Tuesday morning. “Clearly, Speaker Boehner must insist that Congressman Grimm resign immediately.”
By all means, Boehner should hold himself and his caucus to the high standards exemplified by Pelosi while she held the gavel in the House. Right? Er …
But a senior GOP aide pointed out that Pelosi didn’t call for the resignations of several House Democrats who found themselves ensnared in ethical controversies.
“After standing behind Reps. Bill Jefferson, Charlie Rangel, Jack Murtha, and many others, Rep. Pelosi has zero credibility of these issues,” the aide said.
Jefferson lost his re-election bid after his $90,000 cash cache was discovered in his freezer; before that, Pelosi had stripped “Cold Cash” Jefferson of committee assignments but pointedly did not ask for his resignation. Murtha didn’t even get that much of a rebuke from Pelosi despite allegations of corruption, remaining one of the most powerful appropriators in Congress.
But Rangel provides the most laughable example of Pelosi’s sanctimonious hypocrisy. While Speaker, Pelosi presided over the censure of Rangel for 11 counts of ethics violations, which included tax evasion as well as cashing in on his office to raise money for a school bearing his name, as well as other abuses of power. Other than censure and losing the opportunity to be the ranking member on Ways and Means, Rangel has suffered no professional setback, and continues to get support from Pelosi and the national Democratic Party in his D+41 district during elections — including the most recent in November.
Don’t get me wrong. Grimm should resign as he promised to do, and if he doesn’t, the House should expel him for felony tax evasion. If Grimm doesn’t abide by the laws passed by Congress for the rest of us, then he should get the heave-ho, and it would be both good politics and good stewardship for the Republicans to clean the House, so to speak. But Nancy Pelosi has zero ethical standing to wag a finger from the sidelines, and the House might want to look at Rangel as a target for similar housecleaning.