Ethics and ethical conduct is an integral part of any organization. In that regard, if the organization in question is based on public trust, the significance of following ethical conduct by the members of such organization is specifically important. One of such organizations is the United States House of Representatives. The functions of regulating ethical conduct of the members of the House of Representatives along with investigating cases of ethical misconduct are the responsibility of the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, commonly known as the Ethics Committee (Committee on Standards of Official Conduct “About Ethics Committee”). One of the recent cases that the Committee investigated is concerned with the ethical violations of Democratic Representatives Charles Rangel, who is accused of “failing to report rental income, improper use of a rent-stabilized apartment and soliciting charitable donations from people with business before Congress” (Ferraro).
The present paper will attempt to present an analysis of the facts of the case, stating that Representative Charles Rangel is guilty of violating the ethical conduct of the US House of Representatives.
In defense of Charles Rangel, it can be stated that there are several factors that might be used as extenuating circumstances. First of all, the rationale for restricting outside financial sources is for the members and the employees of the Congress not to use their position for personal gain. Such rationale is governed by the Committee’s rules governing disclosure of financial interest (Committee on Standards of Official Conduct “Statutes and Rules Governing Disclosure of Financial Interests”). In that regard, Charles Rangel claimed that he did not use his position for personal enrichment and gain, a fact that was supported by the statement of the counsel to the ethics committee himself, “who acted as prosecutor in this weird case” (PRESSMAN). Such a line of defense can be used in such charges as the use of congressional stationary in order to meet with business leaders to raise fund for Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service. The mission of the center does not provide any personal gains for Charles Rangel, focusing on services such as supporting graduate programs in Public Service Management in the City College of New York (CCNY).
Another aspect that should be mentioned in defense of Charles Rangel can be related to the fact that there are similar conducts by other members of the House of Representatives. The list of the names of the members of the House who conducted similar conducts does not imply that those cases did not pose ethical problems, rather than pointing to that they did not face the same level of public inquiry (Allison).
Investigating the violations reported in the case of Charles Rangel, it can be stated that in assessing an act only the House Rules are important in that matter. The use of congressional stationary is governed by House Rules 24 which states that members and employees of the house are prohibited from using official resources for private purposes. In that regard, the rules of ethical conduct, namely House Rule 23, explicitly state that “communications of a private (or political) nature, whether sent by a Member or by organizations outside the House, may not be prepared or mailed at official expense… [and] should not carry expressions or symbols that might improperly indicate official sponsorship or endorsement” (Committee on Standards of Official Conduct “Official & Outside Organizations”). The fact that the funding the center is for private purpose is supported by the fact that the center will house an office for Charles Rangel and Charles Rangel library, which is stated to be as important as Clinton and Carter libraries (Attkisson).
In what concerns financial disclosure, it can be stated that the rules are explicit in such aspect as well. The statues governing the financial disclosure requirements are in effect since 1978, and aims at increasing the confidence of the public about the interest of government representatives (Committee on Standards of Official Conduct “Statutes and Rules Governing Disclosure of Financial Interests”). Charles Rangel, in that regard, failed to comply with such requirements putting the trust of the public in him in doubt. The rules were explicit, and Charles Rangel explicitly violated those rules.
Reflection and Conclusion
The rules of ethical conduct are made for a reason, and in that regard, those rules are not concerned with the intent for which they were violated. For the aspect of financial disclosure, the rationale of the rules is not preventing corruption, as in this case the question will not be of ethical nature. The rationale is in removing the doubt of those who are meant to be the representatives of the public and facilitate judgment in case conflicts of interest arise. For a Representative with such experience as Charles Rangel, such aspect should be clearly known. Additionally, for using the official resources in private purposes, Charles Rangel was not involved in a commercial activity, nor he supported commercial enterprises. However, he actually received personal gains though the establishment of the center. It can be concluded that the actions of Charles Rangel violated the ethical conduct of the House of Representatives and thus, he is guilty of the stated accusations.
Allison, Bill. “In Defense of Charlie Rangel: Does Everybody Do It?”. 2010. Sunlight Foundation Reporting Group. Web.
Attkisson, Sharyl. “Is Rangel’s ‘Monument to Me’ Worth It?”. 2007. CBS Evening News. Web.
CCNY. “The Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service”. 2010. The City College of New York. Web.
Committee on Standards of Official Conduct. “About Ethics Committee”. 2010. Committee on Standards of Official Conduct. Web.
Committee on Standards of Official Conduct. “Official & Outside Organizations”. 2010. Committee on Standards of Official Conduct. Web.
Committee on Standards of Official Conduct. “Statutes and Rules Governing Disclosure of Financial Interests”. 2010. Committee on Standards of Official Conduct. Web.
Ferraro, Thomas. “Charles Rangel Convicted of Ethics Violations”. 2010. Thomson Reuters. Web.
PRESSMAN, GABE. “In Defense of Charles Rangel”. 2010. NBC Universal. Web.