Accusations of freebie Caribbean trips and tax dodging that have dogged Rep. Charles Rangel finally became too much for his fellow Democrats to bear. The Manhattan Democrat, under a cloud of suspicion for ethical lapses, had little choice but to step down as leader of the House Ways and Means Committee.
Rangel's temporary leave of absence from the powerful chairmanship he has held since 2007 could make him less of a poster child in Republican campaigns in this volatile election year. Unfortunately, it will also diminish New York's congressional clout. And with additional accusations still under investigation, the fall from grace could become permanent. But something has to give when the head of the congressional committee that writes tax laws stands accused of trying to duck paying some of his own taxes.
The House ethics committee admonished Rangel last week for taking corporate-financed Caribbean trips. He is also accused of belatedly paying taxes on rental income from a villa he owns in the Dominican Republic, and revising financial disclosure reports to show hundreds of thousands of dollars in previously undisclosed wealth. Hubris can be costly. hN