The Spectacle Blog

Those Cuddly Democrats

By on 1.3.09 | 8:21AM

The party of ethics and probity appears to be having a little trouble with Rep. Charles Rangel, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.  He just can't seem to get his story straight.  Reports the New York Times:

On April 21, 2008, Representative Charles B. Rangel met with officials of the American International Group, the now-troubled insurance giant, to ask for a donation to a school of public service that City College of New York was building in his honor.

Mr. Rangel had already helped secure a $5 million pledge for the project from a foundation controlled by Maurice R. Greenberg, one of the company's largest shareholders and its former chief executive. And C.C.N.Y. officials, according to the school's own records, had high hopes for A.I.G. - a donation of perhaps as much as $10 million.

The company has never made a contribution. But less than a month after Mr. Rangel met with its officials, the company turned to the congressman for help: A senior A.I.G. executive who had attended the fund-raising meeting wrote a letter directly to Mr. Rangel, chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, urging him to support a provision of a tax bill that would save A.I.G. millions of dollars a year, according to Joseph M. Norton, a company spokesman.

Mr. Rangel's exchange with A.I.G. last spring appears to be at odds with the public statements he has made since his fund-raising for the school became an issue. When his approach to A.I.G. was first reported in The Washington Post in July, Mr. Rangel said that he could not recall any issues his committee might have considered in which A.I.G. had an interest.

"I can't think of one piece of legislation that impacts them, and there has never been a time that they've raised any legislation to me," the paper quoted Mr. Rangel as saying. Indeed, in Mr. Rangel's formal submission to the House ethics committee, asking it to review his use of Congressional stationery in soliciting money for the school, he wrote, "So far as I am aware, none of those whom I wrote had any pending requests into my office, lobbied me regarding any legislation before my committee, or asked me for assistance on legislation in which they had a special interest."

He's a problem for the House Democratic caucus.  But the biggest controversy remains on the Senate side.  Now the Illinois legislature is attempting to speed up the impeachment of Gov. Rod Blagojevich.  But getting rid of him cannot retrospectively void his appointment of Roland Burris to fill Barack Obama's old Senate seat.  So will the Senate leadership really use armed guards to bar Burris from entering the chamber?  Not all Democrats are enthused about this approach.  And it appears that Sen. Harry Reid might not be acting out of the purest of motives.  Reports the Times:

Some highly placed Democrats have begun to question privately why Mr. Burris is being denied the seat if there are no problems with him personally. They said Democrats could dispose of the issue - and gain a reliable Democratic vote in the process - by acceding to the appointment if it met all legal requirements.

But the Senate's leadership remains united in barring Mr. Burris, and hopes to delay settling the matter until the Illinois legislature can impeach the governor and allow a new appointment to be made.

Mr. Blagojevich seemed on Friday to try to raise questions about the motives of Senate leaders' efforts to block Mr. Burris, disclosing for the first time that Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, had - before Mr. Blagojevich's arrest on Dec. 9 - called the governor to talk about whom he was considering appointing to fill Mr. Obama's seat.

Lucio Guerrero, a spokesman for Mr. Blagojevich, said that Mr. Reid called on Dec. 3 to discuss possible appointees, and expressed concerns that some being considered might not be able to win re-election when Mr. Obama's Senate term ended in two years. Mr. Burris was never mentioned in the conversation, Mr. Guerrero said.

"I think the governor thinks that it shows that Harry Reid may have a horse in this race, and it's not Roland Burris," Mr. Guerrero said.

The fun continues!

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