Listen to Congressman Rangel

Representative Charles Rangel may have given ethics reform an unintended boost when he took the House floor on Tuesday to attack the ethics committee and ended up underlining the pervasive power of money in politics. “I am not going away,” declared the once-powerful New York lawmaker as fellow Democrats winced.

In a passionate defense of his reputation, Mr. Rangel dared colleagues to expel him — when all ethics committee members initially wanted was for him to accept a reprimand for a series of obviously grave missteps deemed embarrassing to the House.

Instead, a public trial of sorts looms. And Mr. Rangel is now on the attack against the ethics committee, a panel with a history of secrecy and lethargy in policing members’ misbehavior. It can do taxpayers a favor by coming out of its shell and matching Mr. Rangel’s fervor in making the case against him.

The committee should detail the sense of entitlement that underlies the charges against Mr. Rangel. The trial could provide a warning that the congressman is hardly alone in treating public office as an avenue for the harvesting of privilege.

In turning on fellow Democrats in his speech, Mr. Rangel drew the curtain back on the money machine that so often trumps ethics in members’ frantic campaigning for re-election. “I’m the guy who was raising money in Republican districts to get you here,” Mr. Rangel declared, lambasting colleagues as ingrates.

Republicans are already tracking the money Mr. Rangel shared with Democratic candidates from his cornucopia of campaign funds. Dozens returned the money as his problems deepened. Forty-six Democrats who did not are being attacked in Republican ads for keeping “dirty” donations. It is encouraging to find lawmakers suggesting that their endless begging for campaign money might be an Achilles’ heel.

Editorial, New York Times


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