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Public Statements

Justice For All

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. CARTER. Madam Speaker, Nancy Pelosi became the first elected female Speaker of the House in the history of the United States. On November 16, 2006 she stated, ``This leadership team will create the most honest, most open, and most ethical Congress in history.'' She still serves as our Speaker and she also sits in the position in line to, in case of some horrible disaster, she is actually third in line to the Presidency.

The President of the United States said, ``I campaigned on changing Washington and bottom-up politics. I don't want to send a message to the American people that there are two sets of standards, one for powerful people and one for ordinary folks who are working every day and paying their taxes.'' President Barack Obama said this to CNN on February 3, 2009. So that was the stage that was set for the Democratic administration in this House and for the Democrat administration in the White House.

I've been on the floor of this House now for about 18 or 19 months talking about lots of things, about how we have rules for a reason, and we believe, as Americans, in the rule of law. It is as sacred as anything that there is of a secular nature in this country, that we believe that law and fairness is so important to us that we have laws, and that each person is treated fairly under those laws. And there are no exceptions. And as the President said, we want a world that we live in that says everybody in this country is not only created equal but is going to be treated equal under the law. And we've had lots of examples where that didn't happen, and that's part of the turmoil that has moved around this Nation for over 200 years. But the average American citizen down deep in his soul, in his heart, he wants that world, she wants that world, the American citizen wants the world that says the law treats everybody equally and fairly. And when we go to our court systems under the rules that we operate under, we expect others to follow those rules the same way, and we expect that those who are in a position of enforcing those rules are seeing that that conduct is policed up when those rules are broken. We expect them to treat everybody equally and accordingly.

We've got a volume of rules for this House of Representatives that's about that thick, and it is written in such fine print that you have to have reading glasses to read it, even when you're young--and when you're my age, you certainly need bifocals and trifocals just to read the fine print. But we also have people that have served in this Congress for decades and dealt with these rules. And they understand them, they know these rules, the Speaker being one of them. And when we make a promise to this House that we will have the most honest, open, and ethical Congress in the history of the Congress, that kind of promise is important to the American people because that's exactly what they were looking for from this Democratic administration.

Many times I stand here all by myself on the floor of the House talking about these things, occasionally somebody comes forward and joins me. But I think the Members of this House in their souls expect that. I think every American citizen expects that. And we are now at a point where after I've been talking for 18 or 19 months almost every week about the former chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Mr. Charles Rangel, and the issues that he had, we have finally, finally reached a point where the Ethics Committee has moved off high center and launched forward in this case. But just so we

get an idea of why I've been standing up here, why my colleagues come and join me and stand up here, let's just go through the timeline that we're dealing with and how long it's been going on.

September 24, 2008: The House Ethics Committee votes to open an investigation into soliciting funds for the Charlie Rangel Center for Public Service, occupying rent-stabilized apartments, soliciting donations on congressional letterhead, and not disclosing or paying changes on rental income from a Dominican villa. September 24, 2008.

November 6-9, 2008: Mr. Rangel leads the Citigroup-funded congressional junket to the Caribbean.

December 9, 2008: The Ethics Committee expands the investigation to include Rangel's efforts to preserve tax breaks to a donor to the Rangel Center.

January 28, 2009: Representative Carter, Republican from Texas, introduces the Rangel rule, a bill to eliminate all IRS penalties and interests for paying taxes past due, the reason for that rule being that's the way the IRS treated the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, and I took the position that that was only fair.

August 12, 2009: Rangel amends his financial disclosure forms for 2002 to 2006, effectively doubling his wealth that he now acknowledges to the country.

October 6, 2009: Representative Carter introduces a resolution demanding that Rangel step down as the Ways and Means chairman.

October 8, 2009: The Ethics Committee expands the Rangel investigation to all 2009 financial statements.

February 26, 2010: The Ethics Committee admonishes Rangel for accepting the Caribbean trip.

March 3, 2010: Rangel steps down as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee after Representative Carter prepares to introduce another privileged resolution.

July 22, 2010: The Ethics Committee announces that its subcommittee investigating Rangel alleges House rules violations and that they will be made public on July 29.

So from September 24, 2008 to July 29, 2010, this House dealt with the issues concerning Mr. Rangel. What's not on this board and should be is that on the floor of this very House--and really what launched us into realizing this was going on--was Mr. Rangel stepped before the House and told us every one of these things, every one of them, and said he had turned himself in to the Ethics Committee. Well, I'd like to explain that those of us that deal with the law have a saying, ``justice delayed is justice denied.'' And that's one of the reasons why we have speedy trial acts in many of the jurisdictions in this country because justice delayed is justice denied.

Now, when we're talking about justice, we're not talking just about justice for the individual defendant, we're talking about justice for everyone involved.

If it's a criminal case, we're talking about the kind of justice where the State, representing the people of a State or of this country, is desiring justice on behalf of the people, and the defendant is desiring justice on behalf of the defendant. It doesn't really matter who it is or who is being denied this justice, whether it be the people as represented by the State or the government or whether it be the individual who may be the defendant who is looking for individual justice. Any undue delay in dealing with a problem like this is justice denied.

So we are in July. We are just 1 month and 20-some-odd or 30-some-odd days--let's just be honest and call it 2 months--we are just 2 months away from 2 years of dealing with the situation with Mr. Rangel. He stood right there at that microphone and told us about it for over an hour on the floor of this House.

Now, having seen some very unusual releases by the Ethics Committee about the scope of their investigation, I will say they have done a very comprehensive and a very effective investigation of this case. I want to say that from the outset because I am certainly not in any way demeaning the work ethic of that committee. But when we have the leader saying that we have to deal with this, you have to ask: How does this compare with other cases? How does this compare with the kind of justice we were seeking at other times?

There was a time in the not-too-distant past when one whole half of this House, the half that was in the majority at that time, was accused by the minority--and this was every one of us on the Republican side--of being involved in a culture of corruption because of certain issues that very validly were dealt with both by the Justice Department, with some people ending up in prison, and by our Ethics Committee.

It is the duty and the responsibility of the leadership that leads this House of Representatives--and that leadership is headed by Nancy Pelosi--to make sure that we are going forward, that we are going forward in a very effective way and that we are getting to the root of the problem as quickly as possible.

I would argue that after this 2 years, less 2 months, that we have been dealing with the Rangel case, it is still not resolved; and now there is at least some speculation that there will be no resolution of this issue until after the November elections or at least until after the New York primary elections. You know, the primary voters ought to know the resolution of this problem. They ought to know what is going to happen as they go to vote in the New York primary, but it doesn't look like we are going to resolve it even by the time the voters have had a chance to express their opinions one way or the other against any of the candidates that are involved.

I think that is justice denied.

We're moving forward. I'm not rushing. I've had people ask me questions about resolutions and so forth. I believe in the system, and I am hoping this system is now off high center and is moving forward with haste, but sometimes it takes somebody like me just down here, talking and talking and talking, to remind folks we have a duty to everybody in this House, to everybody in this country and to the individuals who are accused to resolve the issues. This issue has been on the forefront for a long time; but if we don't get through this, just look at what has happened in this period of time.

Mr. Rangel was in charge of the committee. There have been major pieces of legislation that he has ushered through this House. Maybe it's appropriate. Maybe it's not. We don't know. We haven't resolved this issue. We don't know whether any of these allegations have been actually addressed. We don't know what the outcome is going to be, and we are probably not going to know before the people of New York have a chance to go vote in their primary. I don't think that's the right way that ought to be. I don't think the average American thinks that's the right way it ought to be either.

Here is a fairly recent statement. I don't have a date on it. I apologize for that. It is from the Congressional Daily: ``Massa Case still hangs over Dems,'' meaning Democrats. ``For House Democrats, how soon will the other ethics shoe drop--and how hard?''

``A House Ethics subcommittee's finding last week that Representative Charles Rangel, Democrat of New York, violated congressional ethics rules comes at a politically awkward time in these months before the November 2 midterm elections.''

So I guess this is very current.

``Little word has emerged from another Ethics panel reviewing whether Speaker Pelosi and other House leaders or their aides mishandled initial complaints of sexual harassment against former Representative Eric Massa, Democrat from New York, by male staffers.''

So here we have another issue that's hanging out there, and you ask: Well, what's the big hurry on this?

When did this happen? What is the timeline?

Well, let's compare this timeline to a timeline we know, because we had another event in this House where there were allegations of sexual misconduct, and so we are going to talk about both of them and compare them and see where we are.

The Mark Foley case. This is back when the Republicans were in charge of the House of Representatives:

On September 29, 2006, Representative Foley resigned after allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior with House pages. On October 5, 2006, which was in a week and a half, the Ethics Committee launches the investigation. On December 8, 2006, the Ethics Committee concludes the investigation. Foley's resignation and the investigation totals 70 days. The accusations were: What did the House Republican leadership know ahead of time about Mark Foley and about the allegations against him?

We have the Eric Massa case:

What are the allegations? What did the Democrat House staff know about the allegations against Mr. Massa? At what time did they know it? How far before it was actually reported? On March 8, 2010, Representative Massa resigns. On April 21, 2010, the Ethics Committee launches the investigation. The Massa investigation today is 141 days and counting. It is not resolved.

Let's have a comparison. By our little example right here, it takes twice as long under the Democrats as the Republicans--and still counting. Heck, if you look at the Rangel case, it may be 2 years before it's resolved, and maybe it will be next week. I don't know when it's going to be; but the point is that, already, we are 141 days into exactly the same kind of allegations. What did the Speaker and the majority leader know? In the case that involved the Republican-led Congress, it was resolved in 70 days. In the case under the Democrat-led Congress, we are at 141 days and counting.

So there is a responsibility here when you are in the leadership of this House of Representatives. The committee has to move, and it has to move at a pace. Believe me, even though the committee has exactly the same number of people--of Democrats and Republicans on the Ethics Committee--it still has a chairman and a ranking member. The chairman is in charge of the majority, and the ranking member is in charge of the minority; but the chairman leads the committee, and the chairman is appointed by the Speaker.

So here we are. Let's compare the two Ethics Committees: one Republican-appointed chairman and one Democrat-appointed chairman. I have nothing against the chairman. In fact, I happen to like the lady a lot--I really do--but the facts are they're not moving at the speed they need to move to get justice done. There may be absolutely nothing to this. There may be a slight mishandling. It was resolved in 70 days under the Republicans. We are at 141 days and counting right now.

I think that's something we need to think about. I think it's our obligation as Members of this House to point this out to people, point this out to the Members of this Congress, point this out to the American people. Because why should we do it? Maybe we wouldn't have such an obligation if the Speaker of the House hadn't told us that this was going to be the most honest, open, and most ethical Congress in history. In 200-plus years, it's going to be the most honest, open, and ethical Congress. With that kind of declaration by the leadership here, that kind of promise to the American people, then that promise ought to be kept.

People are tired. They're tired, and that's why nobody likes this. I told somebody today, I said, You know, when your congressional approval is 11 percent, you've got to worry if folks at church and folks in your own family even like you.

That's not the way it's supposed to be. This is supposed to be an honorable group. And I think it is. I honestly think it is. But it's this kind of justice delayed, this kind of not letting us know what's going on that is not open and it's not honest, and I think I could almost argue it's not ethical.

So if you're going to promise those things, you've got to deliver. And if you need to go down to the committee and say, I'm here to tell you what I know, step up and do it. Don't wait to be subpoenaed. Resolve the issue. It's fair to all involved, both the American people and the individual involved.

That's what I have been saying for 18 months on the floor of the House. There are those who think that I am a hatchet man against Charlie Rangel. I am not. I have said it every time I have spoken. He is owed the right to have this matter resolved, just as much as the American people are owed the right.

Now, the extent of the investigation was complex. The alleged occurrences against Mr. Rangel were more difficult than the average stuff, because a lot of it dealt with stuff you have to deal with taxes and tax lawyers and CPAs and who else, no telling what else.

But still, we've got to break this cycle of accusations that die or go to sleep in the Ethics Committee. Somebody shouldn't believe, if they turn themselves in, the thing will go into a bottomless pit, a dark hole, and disappear in the slow, snail's pace movement of the Ethics Committee. And every member of that Ethics Committee, both sides of the aisle, are honorable people, so do not misunderstand that I am in any way defaming any of those people. I am not.

But we have had lots of other things come up in this Congress that really haven't been addressed. Now, I'm not saying that every time somebody puts something in the newspaper that that makes it automatically something that ought to go directly to an accusatory situation, but these are just some of the headlines that have happened in the last couple of years:

New York Daily News, ``The FBI joins Massa probe of sexual harassment, hush money, and coverups.''

``Norm Dicks is about to go from Mr. Boeing to Mr. Spending,'' The Washington Post. I am not sure that should be in there.

CQ says, ``Representative Waters calls TARP meeting for her husband's bank.'' Has that been looked into? I don't know.

Landmark Legal Foundation files House ethics complaint against Conyers. Has anything been done about that?

Roll Call, Mollohan charity got a rental deal. Allegations that Mr. Mollohan made some special realty deal to his charity. And the voters took care of that problem.

Weekly Standard, ``GOP proposes earmark moratorium in wake of the PMA scandal.'' The PMA scandal was a scandal that involved--let's see, who was that? Please forgive me. I am a little under the weather tonight.

``Congressman Pete Visclosky has less than half the cash on hand for reelection bid than he did this time 2 years ago, but his legal bills keep growing.'' This is from the Associated Press in 2010, July 19. It points out that he has spent $100,000 on legal fees since April. The Times of Munster reported Saturday that the new amount brings to more than 400,000 the total Visclosky has spent on expenses related to the Federal investigation of the PMA Group. PMA is suspected of making straw donations to lawmakers that concealed the true source of the money. PMA represented defense clients, including several Visclosky donors who received Federal earmarks. So that's what that's all about. The Republicans decided to have a moratorium on earmarks in light of the PMA scandal because, I guess, the way we Republicans looked at it was enough's enough.

``Geithner tax woes examined.'' Now, this is an old story. But the Secretary of the Treasury, who we saw on the talk shows this weekend talking to us about the economy and how we should believe that things are getting

better and how we should trust that things are getting better, he received an extra payment with the taxes included in a separate check, the way I understand it, to pay his taxes, and he didn't pay his taxes. And when he got appointed to the Treasury, to be the Secretary of the Treasury, it came out that he hadn't paid these taxes. So he paid the taxes, and he may have even paid the interest, but I don't think he paid a penalty. So he's about half the Rangel rule. Rangel didn't pay penalty or interest.

You have a taxpayer who pays both penalty and interest. And, you know, here's the problem with all this stuff about whether you paid penalty and interest, whether you paid your taxes on time. Were you treated differently than the average guy?

There is a lady, and I am not going to mention her name, but she's at our grocery store where we shop back home in Texas, and her son failed to pay some taxes, and he was just a guy. He did the best he could to try to explain why he didn't pay the taxes. The taxes were not as sizable, anywhere near as sizable as the ones either involved in Geithner or Rangel's case, and that young man spent 3 years in the Bastrop Federal Penitentiary in Bastrop, Texas. And his mother told us this at the HEB grocery store in Round Rock, Texas.

A lot of people come to judges, former judges like me, and tell them stories about problems that their family's having, I guess because we used to be in the business and we maybe could give them some compassion, I suppose. But the point is I'm not saying anybody deserves to go to the penitentiary in these cases. That's up to the Justice Department. If the Justice Department fairly and equitably does its job, which seems to be in some question right now, then they will deal with it. And I still have faith in the justice system of the United States, and I still want to have faith in the Justice Department.

But going back to where we started, most importantly of anything, Americans want to be treated equitably by those who enforce the rules; and, arguably, Mr. Geithner and Mr. Rangel got special treatment.

So at some time later on this week, we're going to have the beginning of a resolution of Mr. Rangel's case. The White House, which certainly this Congress's Ethics Committee doesn't have anything to say about the workings of the Secretary of the Treasury, there doesn't seem to be anything being dealt with at all by the White House on Mr. Geithner.

There's other accusations about the White House, Mr. Rahm Emanuel served on the board of Freddie Mac while these so-called fraudulent lending practices were going on, and he just says he didn't notice them, I guess. It doesn't seem to interfere with what he's doing at the White House, even though he came to this Congress with $25,000 worth of Freddie Mac donations, and the White House is now giving $200 billion to Freddie Mac. And in the meanwhile, Mr. Emanuel was living rent free in the home of one of the basement's of one of our other Members of this Congress.

These things have been raised but they've disappeared because he's no longer under the House Committee. And so I guess it's up to the administration to give us justice on those issues or even look into it.

Now, we're leaving out the Senate money trial of former Illinois Governor Blagojevich and possible involvement of House Members, and allegations against Mr. Conyers of Michigan, the fact there was a conviction of former Congressman William Jefferson, the sex payroll scandal of former Congressman Tim Mahoney. And we can review these cases for a long time, but there is no reason to go into those things.

But all of these things have to be brought up because we are not the most open, ethical Congress in the history of this United States. It was promised, and that promise has not been delivered upon. And I think that we have a duty, as Members of this House, to examine that and wonder why the leadership of this House has not delivered on that promise.

I don't expect the Speaker to know or be in charge of every private life of every Member here. God forbid. Nobody wants that. That's way beyond the pale. But there are duties and responsibilities that leaders have.

And I would argue that we saw what happened when other leaders had accusations against them because in the Republican Congress they went there, gave their side of the story, got it resolved in 70 days. We're still waiting to resolve an almost identical case. The question was what did the Speaker of the House, Hastert, know about the Mark Foley case. The question here is what did the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, know about the Massa case? Why 70 days versus 141 days? That's a question we ought to be asking ourselves. I don't have the answer. I have the question. I can make some presumptions. The answer is maybe failure to cooperate. Maybe not. Maybe I'm too busy to talk to you today. Maybe not. Who knows what the reason is. But there's 70 more days in one investigation than the other. The other's resolved. The one that's 71 days older is not resolved.

Justice delayed for anybody is justice denied. A reasonable amount of time to prepare your case, of course. Making a proper investigation, of course. I cannot fault any of those things. But especially when it involves those who are in leadership of the House, it would seem to me they should give an extraordinary effort to go do what they can do to move the investigation along to a conclusion. If it means volunteering to go before the committee at the very soonest possible time and setting aside other things like fundraisers in San Francisco or trips to Chicago and going before the Ethics Committee and resolving the issue, it seems to me that's the way it ought to be done. That's what the American people would expect.

I want to commend the Ethics Committee for coming forward with the Rangel case. I take the position at this time that the process is moot now going forward after over close to a 2-year investigation. I for one, still believing in the system, believe that the system will do the right thing and move with haste to conclude this issue that is still hanging over Mr. Rangel's head and still hanging over the House of Representatives' head, still hanging over the American people's head.

This is the people's House. Everybody in here was elected by people. There was nobody in here appointed, ever, to this position. Everyone who ever served in this Congress served because they were elected by people. You can't say that about the Senate. But you can say it about this House.

So when I say the House deserves an answer, the American people deserve an answer, it's because they do. They deserve an answer. And I hope this thing will be resolved. And it would be very appropriate if we resolve at least some of the issues, if possible, before the people of New York are asked to cast a vote in a primary later on in the next few weeks. I'm not sure that's possible because we're about to go into recess. But it's a shame that we're not giving the information to the people of New York that they should have.

I want to thank the Speaker for allowing me to come in here in as many weeks and do this talk, and I will probably be talking about other things in the future.

But we have so many things that we, as people, can disagree on, which is fine. That's what democracy is all about. But overwhelmingly Americans agree that they want a justice system that works, and they want folks to follow the rules, and they want everybody to be treated or given at least the equal opportunity to be treated fairly. And as long as I feel like there's people not being treated fairly or others being treated more special than others, I think it's my job and the job of every Member in this House to step up here and say, That's not America.


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