Most watchers on Capitol Hill don’t expect the ethics trials of Reps. Charlie Rangel and Maxine Waters’ to begin until after midterm elections in November, reported The Hill on Monday.
It’s feared that the trials could overly politicize the ethics process, but for both Rangel and Waters, the charges have already been wrought with political controversy. Both lawmakers have made it a point to publicly fight their battles, hinting that the scales of scrutiny are tipped heavily against black lawmakers.
Over the summer, the House ethics committee released 13 charges against Rangel. They included damning allegations that the longtime Harlem congressman had tried to use his political sway as chairman of the Ways & Means Committee to woo corporate donors in financing his self-named institute at City College of New York. Waters faces three charges of her own, stemming from her dealings with OneUnited, a bank in which her husband was a former board member and owned over $250,000 in stocks.
Meanwhile, at least two other black lawmakers may soon face ethics battles of their own. Reps. Eddie Bernice Johnson and Sanford Bishop have been accused of abusing Congressional Black Caucus Fund scholarships. The Dallas Morning News reported that Johnson had given 23 scholarships worth an estimated $25, 0000 to family members, in violation of the fund’s rules. After CBC Fund chairman Rep. Donald Payne promised an extensive audit into the fund’s fiscal irregularities, Bishop was accused of improperly steering three scholarships to his relatives.
While the news should be good for Democrats, who face an uphill battle to regain their congressional majority in November, it’s certain that the GOP will use the ethics scandals to build their case during election season. Already, Republicans have seized on Rangel and Waters’ scandals as proof lawlessness on the part of Democrats. When news of Johnson’s scholarship scandal hit, the Republican National Committee cited her “nepotism scandal” atop its list of ethically challenged Democrats who should be ousted on election day.