After House Republicans tried to force Charles Rangel from his post as chair of the Ways and Means committee, the body's ethics panel announced yesterday that they would expand the scope of their investigations into the New York representative's financial reporting. Republicans had argued that someone in charge of such a powerful committee, charged with overseeing tax legislation, should not be compromised by even the appearance of impropriety. In response, the ethics panel listed the people they'd interviewed and subpoenas they'd issued. According to the Times yesterday, they also said they'd expand their investigation to include the sketchy additions to his 2007 financial-disclosure statements that he made in August, which ended up doubling his net worth.
Rangel has been under investigation by the House Ethics Panel since last year, when the Times reported that the wealthy lawmaker was renting four rent-stabilized apartments in Harlem. In fact, the Times has been a bit of a bête noire for Rangel: The ethics panel also expanded their investigation after the paper reported that he failed to report rental income from a villa in the Dominican Republic. When Rangel tried to fight back against the paper's hectoring, editors shredded his points one by one.
We bet today, then, there was a little bit of glee in the editing room when the Times had the chance to truncate slightly the statement released by Rangel's office regarding the expanded ethics investigation. "It is clear that the committee is being very thorough and deliberative in their process, hence today’s announcement," a Rangel spokesman said. "As a practical matter, today’s announcement is nothing new." Aw. That's a sad-sounding defense, if we ever heard one.