Despite admonishment by an ethics committee for taking a corporate sponsored trip to the Caribbean, flouting House rules barring gifts worth more than $50, Congressman Charlie Rangel says he won’t resign from his powerful post on the House Ways and Means Committee. "Why don't you ask me if I'm going to stay chairman of the committee in light of the fact that we're expecting heavy snow in New York?" he quipped to reporters yesterday. Still, four fellow Dems called for him to step down and President Obama reprimanded him. According to White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs Obama stressed that "rules are put in place for a reason and that those rules can and must apply to each and every person."
Ethics organization criticized the committee’s breezy treatment of the incident, reports the Times. “The report simply defies logic,” said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “The committee apparently views its job to clear members of Congress of allegations of misconduct, not to sanction members or do full and fair investigations.” Rangel claims he was unaware of the meeting’s corporate sponsorship, though the Post reports aides showed him at least three documents disclosing the information. “It seems a real stretch,” said David Vance, director of research projects at the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center in Washington. Of the trips, he said, “You could not have found your way to the bathroom without seeing signs from Pfizer, AT&T, Verizon and other sponsors.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi defended Rangel, if weakly. She said he didn't "knowingly violate the rules," acknowledging judgment on more serious allegations—including improper fundraising, tax evasion on property in the Dominican Republic, and his use of four rent-stabilized apartments in Manhattan—are forthcoming from the ethics committee. "We'll see what happens with that," she added. For his part, Rangel was unapologetic. He called the report "ill-considered, unprecedented, unfair, and wrong on the facts and the law."