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Opinion

EDITORIAL: Reckoning with Rangel

It's possible that Thursday's decision to haul Rep. Charles Rangel before a special ethics subcommittee reflects a genuine desire to enforce a standard of conduct. But the timing suggests it may be the prospect of a drubbing on Election Day that roused Democrats. When they won control of the House in 2007, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) pledged to drain the swamp. Republicans are sure to remind voters of that promise.

Still, House watchdogs may finally get to the bottom of accusations of ethics violations that have swirled around the 20-term Harlem Democrat for the past two years. It's about time.

Officials haven't specified which of the many violations Rangel is accused of were found credible enough to refer for trial. But most of the allegations against the former chairman of the tax-writing House Committee on Ways and Means reflect an arrogance of power that makes voters see red.

There are the four Manhattan apartments Rangel allegedly rented at below-market rates in violation of rules barring gifts of more than $50. There's the role he may have played in preserving a tax loophole for an oil-drilling firm, just as the company's top executive pledged $1 million to the Charles B. Rangel School of Public Service at City College of New York. And the $75,000 in rent he allegedly got for a Caribbean villa and failed to report on his taxes. Abuses occur when powerful people behave like there are two sets of rules - one for the elite and another for everyone else. People hate that, and Congress shouldn't tolerate it. hN

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