Rep. John Carter's $300 thousand income disclosure problem might impair the House Republican leadership's plan to paint Democrats as ethically challenged. The centerpiece of the plan was for Carter to lead the attack against Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY).
As recently as Monday, Politico reported that they hoped to exploit Rangel's dilemma for “maximum political advantage.”
Convinced that Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) is on the ropes because of a tangle of ethical issues, House GOP leaders are debating whether to aggressively press for his removal as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee or try to drag out the controversy as long as possible for maximum political advantage.
House GOP leaders tapped Carter to introduce a resolution to strip Rangel of his Ways and Means Committee chairmanship on Oct. 7. Moments after Democrats defeated the resolution, Carter told Politico he wanted another chance.
Rep. John Carter (R-Texas), author of the Rangel removal resolution, said he will either offer it again “in a very short period” or offer a different resolution that is a “first cousin to the [Rangel] resolution.”
But, Carter said, “I don't want to look like I am trying to overkill the Rangel issue.
“I don't want to make people think that I'm some guy on some kind of witch hunt for Charlie Rangel,” he said. “I'm on a witch hunt only for stopping all this crap that goes on in Congress – and this is one example.”
Another example of “all this crap”, ironically, came Thursday from Carter himself, when he admitted that he failed to disclose nearly $300 thousand in gains from the sale of ExxonMobil stock in 2006 and 2007. Facing a stiff challenge from Temple lawyer Mary Beth Harrell, Carter's multi-million dollar stake in Exxon became a campaign issue. By failing to follow the law, Carter was able to realize hundreds of thousands of dollars in gains without suffering the political consequences.
With a solid pro-Big Oil voting record that included votes to keep tax loopholes open, windfall gasoline profits from being taxed, and against climate change legislation that even Pres. George W. Bush supported; the story of hundreds of thousands in gains from selling ExxonMobil stock would have been extremely damaging. The evidence suggests that Carter lied to keep his job.
On Oct. 12, after his Rangel resolution failed, Carter told Human Events reporter Seth McLaughlin, “We cannot tolerate a double standard in this country, one for the common man and another for the rich and powerful.”
Thursday Boehner began damage control. He told Roll Call that “Carter was still an appropriate point man for Republican efforts to challenge Democrats on ethics issues.” Boehner's defense consisted of equal parts “an error that many other Members have made”, “Those forms are very confusing”, and “The ethics committee gives advice to members and frankly … their advice appeared to [be]a mistake.”
Boehner also said, “The mistake he made is similar to one made by then-Senator Obama.” He was referring to Obama's failure to report about $2,000 in capital gains from a stock sale in 2005. So Carter's transgression is just like Obama's; except Carter made $298,000 more profit.
Less than an hour after Roll Call published Boehner's comments, he retracted his criticism of the House ethics committee.
“Mr. Boehner got some bad information,” (Boehner spokesman Michael) Steel said in an e-mail. “He had no intention of disparaging the important work the Ethics Committee is doing.”
With Boehner eliding his swipe at the Ethics committee, the GOP argument in defense of Carter amounts to: everybody makes that mistake because the forms are confusing. However, if “We cannot tolerate a double standard in this country”, then the same defense applies to Charlie Rangel.
Therefore, the enduring legacy of Carter's “mistake” is to neuter a key GOP strategy, trumpeted Oct. 14 by Politico reporter Glenn Thrush:
House Republicans — even those who have enjoyed a good personal relationship with Rangel over the years — feel they have hit political pay dirt, leveraging his woes to accuse House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) of reneging on promises to “drain the swamp” of congressional corruption.
Carter said, “Either this House repairs this damage, or the American people will have to replace this House.” Perhaps voters in Texas' 31st Congressional District can follow up on that statement next November.