This weekend, both Charles Rangel and Maxine Waters decided to face trial for ethics violations rather than leave with what is left of their dignity intact. Today, an article in Politico cites an unnamed member of the Congressional Black Caucus who claimed that African-American legislators face a higher degree of investigation than do their white counterparts.
Part of the reason for this claim is that, during at least part of this Congress, there was a time in which 8 different representatives under ethics investigation, each of whom were African-American. This anonymous member said that all 8 members were originally investigated by the Office of Congressional Ethics. Under its rules, members can initiate charges anonymously there. So this member was claiming that an outside group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, was seeking to damage the reputations of black Congressmen. The member then said that the deck was stacked against members once an investigation ensued, that they are guilty until proven innocent.
As we all recall, Charles Rangel last week was charged with 13 separate ethics violations, ranging from nonpayment of taxes on rental properties (while chair of the Ways and Means Committee), to soliciting corporate payoffs for a school that he founded, to receiving corporate funding for his personal travel.
Maxine Waters meanwhile was charged by the Ethics Committee with intervening with the Treasury Department to help a minority owned internet bank in which her husband owned $250,000 worth of stock, and served for a while on the board of directors.
Other African-Americans who are being investigated include Jesse Jackson, Jr., who is being looked at in connection with the Blagojevich trial, because the ex-Illinois governor claimed on tape that the younger Jackson promised to raise $1.5 million for his campaign. Gregory Meeks, from Queens, is being investigated in connection with charges against powerful New York political figures. Both of the latter two deny any wrongdoing.