This Year in Scandals: Congressmen Behaving Badly
Back in June, we spotlighted the 21 members of the 109th Congress investigated for corruption. Now, as the 110th Congress draws to a close, let’s take a look at this year’s highest achievers:
Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY)
The devil on Rangel’s shoulder appears to have been whispering directly into reporters’ ears this year. According to news reports, Rangel (take a deep breath):
- Rented four rent-stabilized Harlem apartments, using one as an office in apparent violation of the law;
- Used congressional stationery to solicit funds for his personal foundation;
- Didn’t disclose at least $75,000 in income from renting his Caribbean villa on congressional disclosure forms or state and federal income tax filings;
- Waited two months to fulfill his pledge to hire an accountant to work out how much he owed in back-taxes;
- Didn’t pay interest on that villa’s mortgage for 10 years;
- Underreported the value of a condo he owned with his wife near Miami;
- Stored his Benz for free in the House parking garage for years, violating congressional rules;
- Took advantage of a D.C. “homestead” tax break reserved for primary residents of the district, a stipulation also required by his NYC apartments;
- Steered nearly $80,000 in campaign cash to his son’s biz to produce some slapdash Web sites. (“This is probably legal but is definitely wrong,” said a campaign finance expert);
- Took a trip to the Caribbean paid for by top U.S. businesses with five other Congressional Black Caucus members. (The House ethics committee OKed the trip, but the trip’s sponsor may have given it faulty info);
- Helped protect a Caribbean tax shelter for a company whose CEO was a major donor to his foundation.
The House ethics committee is investigating most of these allegations, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has promised it will finish by early January. There are growing cries for Rangel to step down as chairman from the powerful House Ways and Means committee. But as The Hill puts it, that “gavel will have to be pried from his clenched hand.”
Rep. Tim Mahoney (D-FL)
Mahoney was elected to Congress on pledges to restore a “safer, more moral” world to constituents rocked by the scandalous downfall of his predecessor, Mark Foley. For Mahoney, that new world apparently included payoffs and gag orders for his mistress.
ABC News reported in October that Mahoney had an extramarital affair, and then, to keep his mistress quiet and avoid a lawsuit, paid her and her lawyer a combined $121,000. He also gave her a taxpayer-funded job and a campaign job from which he later fired her in this brutal phone call. (A highlight: “You work at my pleasure… The only person who matters is guess who? Me.”)
Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AL)
Following his July indictment (PDF) for not disclosing gifts from oil execs (stained-glass windows and sled dogs galore!), Stevens tried every trick in the book to stymie the prosecution. Then he seemed to show off that famous Alaska brass with his request to get his conviction overturned. But it turns out he’s got a pretty good case!
Two months after Stevens was convicted (and lost his re-election bid and law license to boot), an FBI agent filed a whistleblower complaint about the Justice Department’s tactics during the trial. According to the whistleblower, prosecutors withheld evidence from the defense and “schemed to relocate a witness.” He also described an “inappropriate relationship” between a government employee and the prosecution’s star witness.”
The judge who presided over Stevens’ trial will hold a hearing on the matter in early January.
In the meantime, you can peruse the myriad allegations of wrongdoing hounding other legislators, including Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN), Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), Rep. Rick Renzi (R-AZ) and Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA).