Rangel, Waters, and the perils of Democrats 'draining the swamp'
Democratic Reps. Charles Rangel and Maxine Waters, both members of the Congressional Black Caucus, are poised to have House trials on ethics charges right before midterm elections. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has pledged to 'drain the swamp' of Washington corruption.
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She says her dealings regarding OneUnited were part an effort to lobby Treasury officials on behalf of the National Bankers Association, which represents dozens of banks owned by minorities and women. OneUnited won $12 million in bailout money from the Treasury, though officials there have reportedly said Waters was not the reason.Skip to next paragraph
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Rangel, for his part, has said there was nothing illegal about his fundraising activities.
The Office of Congressional Ethics, a new watchdog group set up by Ms. Pelosi in 2009, has eyed at least eight members of the Congressional Black Caucus, whose members have complained that some of those investigations are racially motivated.
Another prosecutorial factor, however, could be that ethics investigations often end up focusing on long-serving members – Waters and Rangel have served nearly six decades between them – who face little or no opposition at election time. Both devoted liberals have been regularly reelected with between 70 and 90 percent of the vote.
Democratic leadership vs. congressional blacks?
Waters herself has come to epitomize what many see as a growing divide between the White House and black America. In a speech at the National Urban League last week, the 10-term lawmaker took umbrage with the White House's treatment of Shirley Sherrod, the Agriculture Department official who was forced to resign for an allegedly racist statement made at an NAACP awards luncheon, a charge which later turned out to be false.
"We have to say to folks in leadership, whether it is the White House or anybody else: 'Don't be so afraid of white folks that you treat black people bad,' " she said. "Whether it is the White House or the NAACP, you cannot live in the moment of responding to the right-wing press, who is using that platform to literally do their organizing, to intimidate you and basically run this country."
The Rangel case, especially, threatens to demoralize a critical base for Democrats come November, strategists say. Rangel is one of the most legendary black politicians in US history and one whose venerable career contributed to the success of generations of black politicians. Obama said last week that the charges against Rangel are "troubling."
"Rangel's alleged misdeeds stem from exactly the kinds of abuses of power that cost the Republicans their majority in 2006, and which have sent the Tea Party movement into the streets demanding change," writes US News & World Report's Peter Roff.
"The way the congressional schedule is currently set, if the Rangel case goes to trial it will be in the midst of the fall campaign season at a time when Republican and Independent-leaning likely voters are enthusiastic about making changes in Washington. And Democrats, according to the latest polls, are looking more and more like they'll be staying home." Mr. Roff adds.
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