Thursday, December 11, 2008
Yet More Members of Congress Dogged by Scandal
Charlie Rangel (D-NY), the 78 year old chair of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, is the latest Democrat reeling from an ethics investigation. Rangel came to Congress after defeating longtime incumbent Democrat Adam Clayton Powell in 1970 in a five way primary and went on to win the general election in the Harlem district with 88% of the vote. At the time, Powell was reeling because of ethics issues). The House Ethics Committee is looking into several questionable actions by Rangel including "whether Rangel helped preserve a lucrative tax break that benefited an oil-drilling company last year, while its chief executive was pledging $1 million to a college center named in the congressman's honor. The ethics committee also is looking at Rangel's use of congressional stationery to ask foundations to support the school project; using four rent-stabilized apartments in a Harlem apartment building; and not reporting or paying taxes on $75,000 in rental income from his villa in the Dominican Republic." House Speaker hopes to have the investigation wrapped up by January 3, when the 111th Congress will begin.
On the other side of the aisle, Don Young, Alaska's lone House member, has stepped down from his position as ranking Republican on the House Natural Resources Committee after pressure from House Minority Leader John Boehner. Young, who "once said Alaska national parks and wilderness areas were for 'jet-setting hippie backpackers',...is being probed by grand juries in Washington, D.C., and Alaska, mainly for earmarks during his tenure as chairman of the House Transportation Committee."
Seattlepi.com has a great description of the mercurial Young: "Self-described as 'the congressman for all Alaskans', Young was elected to Congress in 1973, and is the second longest serving Republican member of the House. He is best known in the 'lower 48' as champion of the 'bridges to nowhere,' federal pork barrel projects that would have linked Anchorage and Ketchikan to sparsely populated destinations. In Alaska, Young is famous for malaprops (e.g. 'bladderdash'), faithfully recorded by 'The Ear' column in the Daily News. The 'alpha wolf,' as Young once called himself, has been a mean man with whom to tangle. He has made not-infrequent threats against fellow members on the House floor.Young once waved a walrus' male sex organ in the air at a House hearing. On another occasion, the congressman put his hand into a leg trap, supposedly to demonstrate that it was a humane way to capture and kill wolves. And, most famously, he denounced National Endowment to the Arts funding while speaking to a high school assembly in Fairbanks. Pressed to give reasons, he cited a proposed grant to the late homo-erotic photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. The kids pressed further, and Young used a obscene expression for gay sex to describe scenes from Mapplethorpe's photos. Apologies followed."