Its A Matter Of Ethics

Commentary By Eric Renderking Fisk - November 18, 2010 Bookmark and Share

Trust me, this almost non sequetor will make sense in minute. I know I’m mixing a film review with a rant about a current event. Trust me, it’s what I do and why you check out The Fedora Chronicles.

In the beginning of one of my favorite Films, "Miller’s Crossing," Johnny Casper (Jon Polito) is sitting down with Leo O'Bannion (Albert Finney) and having a discussion about why someone needs to get whacked. According to Casper, Bernie Burnbalm was taking what he knew about the fights that were being fixed by Mr. Casper. Casper’s going on about the law of averages, the sure thing that’s no longer a sure thing anymore since “the scmatta” is selling what he know to bookies from other parts of the country. Because of Burnbalm selling his information, the betting pools were back to what they used to be; an unknown quantity, anarchy, returning back to the wilds of the jungle. You can't trust a fixed fight any more, it's no longer a safe bet.

This humorous scene sets up the whole film and a chain of events; Casper was asking Albert Finny’s character permission to whack Bernie, because he violated the ethics code between thieves, crooks, bookies, grafters and grifters.

“I'm talkin' about friendship. I'm talkin' about character. I'm talkin' about - hell. Leo, I ain't embarrassed to use the word - I'm talkin' about ethics.”

Get it? One crime boss is talking to another crime boss about ethics, and using ethics as a valid reason to commit a greater crime; murder.

What we’re talking about here isn’t murder, though. We're still talkin' about ethichs.

I have to laugh out loud when I read about a similar situation that’s going on in Washington right now; Congressmen talking about ethics violations committed by one of their own. I’m talking about ethics.

I’ve been thinking about that while I’m reading about how the charges of ethics  violations that have been leveled against Rep. Charles Rangel and the hearings that will be held against the defiant congressman who has already fought the charges, admitting that he did what the prosecutors said he did, but he didn’t do anything wrong. If he did what they said he did, the means justify the ends, he votes the right way on the right issues.

Rangel Used PAC Money for Legal Defense

New York Rep. Charles Rangel, whose ethics trial starts tomorrow, appears to have improperly used political-action committee money to pay for his defense, The New York Post reported Sunday.

Rangel tapped his National Leadership PAC for $293,000 to pay his main legal-defense team this year. He took another $100,000 from the PAC in 2009 to pay lawyer Lanny Davis. Two legal experts told The Post such spending is against House rules. "It's a breach of congressional ethics," one campaign-finance lawyer said.

  What I didn’t know is that you can’t take campaign dollars and spend them any way you want. I can’t stand on the street corner in Times Square and beg for donations from other people to help me run for State Rep here in New Hampshire and then spend that money any way I want. I can’t say that I’m running for an elective office, raise funds to do that, and then buy myself a new laptop for my home in the Caribbean that was a gift from a lobbiest, then not report the income and pretend nothing ever happened. There are actually laws that dictate how you can raise money, what you do with that money, and who you report to in regards to what money changed hands and what was done with it. There's an actualy "code of conduct" in regards to such matters.

Yes, it’s true; I’m talking about ethics. I thought they were an endangered species in Washington D.C. and our state capitols but in fact they are alive and well. These ethics also have companions; hypocrisy and selective indignation.

I read the charges against Mr. Rangel and I have to admit that I was struck by the number of violations, the amount of money, gifts, favors and unreported income. Essentially an entire floor of an apartment building was converted into his own personal condo, another vast section of the same building was converted into office space for one of his organizations.

Vacation homes in The Dominican Republic that was a “gift” that generates another stream of income for him?

Using Campaign dollars for paying his legal defense team?

Using congressional letterhead for corresponding with staff and fundraisers for his own “Rangel Center at City University of New York?”

Personally, I think that’s kind of cool that he had all that space set aside for his work and living space in Manhattan, and I wish that AIG would come through on the deal we all made and let The Fedora Chronicles staff move into the space we already bought, thanks to yours and our tax dollars.

I tend to think that he’s going to get away with what he’s done with a reprimand and public censure on the Congressional Floor. I’m sure he’s going to hear other lectures about how this is all a matter of “ethics.” Personally, I think Mr. Rangel and the American people deserve more. I know I’m owed better and I’m not one of his constituents. Why?

Back when I was a child and adolescent, I used to get punished severely for the breaches of ethics more harshly than others my age or in my own family for the simple reason that I was one of the good guys and I knew better. If my brother was caught with a midget prostitute while shooting up heroin on the couch he set on fire, it would have been laughed off. “Oh! That’s so Adam!” He would have been sent to his room while my mother made me try to get the scorch marks off the wall before the fire department left.

I came home 15 minutes late from working hard all Friday night so my mom could have some spending money and provide my bother with an allowance, you would have thought that I turned over The Frank Family while I was doing blow with Adolph, Goebbels, and Mengele.

Which “Fisk Brother” do you think Mr. Rangel is? Because of his charm, liability and party afilitation he'll be sent to his room with a stern lecture in public and a pat on the back during the Congresinal happy hour behind closed doors.

Charles Rangel was a decorated soldier in the United States Army during the Korean War and showed more courage and devotion to a cause greater than his own. In what I’ve read on him, he was able to accomplish a lot by working with those on both sides of the isle. My favorite Rangel moment came recently when he rebuked Hugo Chavez after the comments he made about George W. Bush during a visit to New York City, Calling Dubya "The Devil."

CNN: Democrats warn Chavez: Don't bash Bush," JOHN BOLTON | September 21, 2006

Two of President Bush's staunchest domestic critics leapt to his defense Thursday, a day after one of his fiercest foreign foes called him "the devil" in a scorching speech before the United Nations.

"You don't come into my country; you don't come into my congressional district and you don't condemn my president," Rep. Charles Rangel, D-New York, scolded Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

The time for Mr Rangel to lecture any one of us on what "the right thing to do" has passed. You can’t stand on the floor of congress and talk about what’s the right thing to do when you’re in the position of Mr. Rangel. Charlie here can’t be lecturing us on C-Span on who we (the voters and tax payers) need to do this, we need this new law, this new program. We need 2,000 page bills passed before we can read them, we need to pay more for that, we need to sacrifice some liberty to sacrifice some security. We need to do what’s best for the country.It’s a matter of, and I’m not afraid to say it fellow retroheads; it’s a matter of ethics.

This is truly a Shakespearian Tragedy; a man of such accomplishment was brought down by his own hubris thinking that he could (and should) be able to get away with anything. His conviction proves that anyone can be corrupted. Rangel was caught enjoying perks not enjoyed by the unwashed masses. Perks paid for by those apparently looking for special favors from him in return. What exactly did Mr. Rangel give in return for what he received? What did he lose in the long run? What did the Democratic Party lose? Most importantly, what effect have his actions had on the American people? What have we lost?


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