Sunday, September 28, 2008


Recently Rep. Charles Rangel (D.-N.Y.) conceded that it was "irresponsible" of him not to report on his taxes rental income from a vacation home he owns in a resort in the Dominican Republic. Rangel, who is under investigation by the House Ethics Committee, argues nonetheless that the income he didn't report should not affect his standing in Congress.

Rangel is the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, a panel which, among other things, is responsible for shepherding tax law. So far Rangel is ignoring the call of some Republican leaders for him to step down from the committee.

Given his admitted tax lapse -- Rangel says that his staff was delegated responsibility for preparing his taxes, but concedes that he bears "the ultimate responsibility" -- is he ethically obligated to step down from his position as chairman and/or to resign from the House?

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Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Right Thing: Conscience, Profit and Personal Responsibility in Today's Business (Smith Kerr, 2006), is an associate professor at Emerson College in Boston, where he teaches writing and ethics. He is also the administrator of The Right Thing, a Web log focused on ethical issues.

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Bill Jacobson said...

It would depend on the seriousness of the lapse. Tax laws are convoluted and any of us might be guilty of the same lapse under IRS review. Let him do what the rest of us do. Pay the lapse, pay a (probably very stiff) fine and move on.

If Rangel's prosecuted for tax evasion, then perhaps remove him from Ways and Means then but the calls for him to step down now smack more of the two-year shifting morality cycles of national politics which peak pre-election - the party's fear of a scandal which may smear their candidates trumps their usual morality stance of ignoring lapses. Ethics are doing what is right even though no one is watching but the call for Rangel's resignation is only happening because the world press is watching and would jump on such a slip. There but for the grace of God go I.

Bill Jacobson said...

Previous comment was:

William Jacobson
Cypress, CA
Orange County Register

angelinjones said...

People don't like to draw attention to themselves on this subject," is the way one financial adviser puts it. That's probably understandable: plenty of business owners believe that they raise the risk of an audit simply by claiming the deduction.

Anonymous said...

Congressman Charlie Rangel has very little character and no values. Otherwise, he would resign as Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. This is not the first time Rangel has been caught with his hands in the taxpayers cookie jar. In the recent past he enter an earmark of over $1 million dollars to build an office for him when he retires in a New York Library. On the floor of the House, he stated that it was due him for his long service to the district. That my friends is the height of eliteism and the Democratic mode.

"There is no right wasy to do a wrong thing." Pay attention Congressman Rangle. Neal White, Atlanta, GA