It's hypocrisy of the highest sort to censure Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., for his inappropriate "you lie" outburst during President Obama's recent health care speech, while largely ignoring the apparent criminality and breach of the public trust by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Rangel purchased a rental property at the Punta Cana Yacht Club in the Dominican Republic in 1987 -- which gave him $75,000 in unreported income.
The chairman of the House's tax-writing committee reported less than $5,000 in rental income in 2004 and 2005, and no income from the property in 2006 and 2007. Never mind that the Dominican property rents for $500 a night in the offseason and for as much as $1,100 in peak times.
Rangel reportedly also failed to report income gained from the sale of a $410,000 town house he sold in 2004.
Additionally, Rangel "discovered" he had a bank account at the Congressional Federal Credit Union and another with Merrill Lynch -- each having between $250,000 and $500,000 -- which he failed to reveal on his financial disclosure statements. It seems inconceivable that he could actually forget two bank accounts containing more than a quarter of a million dollars each.
House rules require members to "disclose outside compensation, holdings and all business transactions," which Rangel clearly failed to do. Similar allegations led to the conviction and censure of Rep. George V. Hansen, R-Idaho, who failed to report more than $80,000 in income gained from silver futures in 1984.
The uneven treatment of the Wilson and Rangel cases shows the Democrats appear to place a higher value on gaining partisan political points by enforcing the House's code of manners than on enforcing House financial disclosure rules. House rules describe full and accurate financial disclosures as matters of "public trust."
To their credit, two of the Democratic caucus's most liberal members -- Reps. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio and Jim McDermott of Washington -- both voted against the measure.
Kucinich told the Cleveland Plain Dealer that while Wilson's outburst was uncalled for, the censure only served to aggravate partisan polarization and accomplished nothing.
McDermott told Newsweek that censuring Wilson did "nothing to further the process of civility in the House" and said his public apology to the president was adequate.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., promised in 2006 to "drain the swamp" of corruption on Capitol Hill and place ethics over party. Even the liberal group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has described Rangel's actions as being among the most corrupt on Capitol Hill.
If Pelosi is at all serious about placing ethics over party, she will allow a censure motion against Rangel to come to the floor for a vote.
Colin A. Hanna is president of Let Freedom Ring, which has begun a new initiative, We the People Can Read, calling for all legislation to be available on the Internet for 72 hours before Congress votes on it.