Pelosi Insists She’s Running ‘Most Ethical’ Congress Ever
February 26, 2010 - 5:18 PMSpeaker Nancy Pelosi insisted Friday she is running the most ethical and honest Congress in history. A the same time, however, she indicated she will not ask Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel (D.-N.Y.) to resign his chairmanship—at least for now.
Rangel was admonished this week by the ethics committee for taking corporate-funded trips to the Caribbean.
Pelosi noted that the ethics committee is looking into other issues involving Rangel, and made it clear that she was interested in seeing the outcome of these investigations soon.
The committee, for example, is looking at Rangel’s failure to disclose hundreds of thousands of dollars in assets that should have been listed on his congressional financial disclosure reports.
“Obviously, they have other issues to deal with,” Pelosi said at her Friday press briefing. “But I thank them for taking this action. I hope that they will have other action soon. But they did not take action against him. They just said he did not willfully break the rules. But we’ll just see what happens next, what comes out of the committee next.”
When a reporter prefaced a question about Rangel by noting that Pelosi had promised to run the “most ethical and honest Congress in history” she interrupted him to say: “And we are.”
The House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct put out a report and statement on Friday concluding its investigation of six members of Congress who traveled to conferences in the Caribbean in 2007 and 2008, where their travel was subsidized by corporations. The committee exonerated five of the members of Congress, saying they did not knowingly violate any House rule because they were unaware of the corporate sponsorship of their travel.
The committee, however, found that Rep. Rangel did violate the House gift rule because his staff did know that the Caribbean trips were subsidized by corporations and failed to provide that information to the ethics committee when they sought the committee’s approval for Rangel to make the trips. The committee said it did “not find sufficient evidence” to conclude that Rangel had “actual knowledge of the memoranda written by his staff” but said that he was responsible for his staff's official actions.
“The report further finds that Representative Charles B. Rangel violated the House gift rule by accepting payment for reimbursement for travel to the 2007 and 2008 conferences,” said the committee statement. “The evidence shows that members of Representative Rangel’s staff knew that corporations had contributed funds to Carib News specifically for the 2007 and 2008 conferences. This information was not provided to the Standards Committee when he sought and received approval from the Committee to accept these trips. The Committee does not find sufficient evidence to conclude, nor does it believe that it would discover additional evidence to alter its conclusion, that Representative Rangel had actual knowledge of the memoranda written by his staff. However, the report finds that Representative Rangel was responsible for the knowledge and actions of his staff in the performance of their official duties. It is the intention of this Committee that publication of this Report will serve as public admonishment by the Standards Committee of Representative Rangel.”
According to the Associated Press, “Rangel is also being separately investigated for an alleged failure to pay federal taxes on rental income from a Dominican villa and on his use in New York of apartments provided by a Manhattan developer.”
Here is a transcript of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s statements about Rangel in her Feb. 26 press briefing:
Reporter: The ethics committee, as I am sure you know, has admonished Charlie Rangel.
Reporter: Given that you promised to run the most ethical and honest Congress in history--
Pelosi: And we are.
Reporter: Do you think he should step down as chairman of the committee?
Pelosi: What I understand—and I haven’t seen the report, I don’ think it’s out yet--
Reporter: It is.
Pelosi: It is? Oh, it is. All I saw was the press release where they said that he did not violate the rules of the House. And I think that’s an important statement that they made. So, there’s more to Mr. Rangel’s situation, and we will look forward to hearing from the ethics committee on that.
Reporter: They did admonish him. They said that his staff knew about this corporate funding for these trips. And--
Pelosi: And they said that he did not. And they said this press release shall stand as the admonishment of him. But that’s what I read.
Reporter: Do you think it ends right there.
Pelosi: No, I think there’s more to—Obviously, they have other issues to deal with. But I thank them for taking this action. I hope that they will have other action soon. But they did not take action against him. They just said he did not willfully break the rules. But we’ll just see what happens next, what comes out of the committee next.
Reporter: I know that you said you’re waiting for the ethics committee. But doesn’t this hair-splitting over whether it was Mr. Rangel who know of this or his staff, and just, I guess, the appearance of impropriety in all these other matters that the ethics committee is looking into, doesn’t that kind of damage your promise to drain the swamp.
Pelosi: No, I think that every member is entitled to have his day before the ethics committee. They have said he did not knowingly violate the rules. And, again, if this were the end of it, that would be one thing. But there’s obviously more to come and we’ll see what happens with that. But every member has that right. I think it’s quite a statement to hold members accountable for what their staffs knew. I would be interested to see how that reverberates. But we have to place our confidence appropriately and we are held responsible for that.