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Rangel: A genuine American hero

4/12/2011, 5:30 p.m.

It may not be appropriate to describe Rep. Charles Rangel's recent attempt to salvage his career and honor as a "Hail Mary" situation, given that he's Roman Catholic, but desperate times demand desperate measures.

In a few days, according to some familiar with his case, the full House of Representatives will vote whether to censure or reprimand the embattled congressman, who has been found guilty of 11 ethics violations by the House subcommittee.

Their the numbers increasing by the day, Rangel's supporters are demanding that he be reprimanded, and a few of the more diligent among them have even presented a chart comparing his situation with congressional members of the past facing similar charges.

A recent flier from supporters highlights 10 reasons why Rangel should not receive censure.

First of all, the flier states that Rangel has not been convicted of any crime. "In the past, the Ethics Committee has recommended a reprimand in matters where a member has failed to submit accurate financial disclosure statements or intentionally failed to disclose gifts or donations, or if his conduct involved an actual conflict of interest or corruption."

It goes on to state that Rangel's violations were not fraudulent, which is contrasted with the 1979 conviction of Rep. Charles Diggs, who was censured for 11 counts of mail fraud and 18 counts of false payroll statements that involved a payroll kickback scheme of $66,000.

Nor did Rangel take bribes like Rep. Charles Wilson did in 1980 and was subsequently censured for concealing a $1,000 wedding gift from a foreign government and appropriating campaign funds for personal use.

Unlike Newt Gingrich in 1997, who was reprimanded for making false statements about his misuse of tax-exempt entities to fund a partisan college course, Rangel was forthcoming and transparent with the committee.

Congressman Rangel, the flier continues, did not divert official resources for personal use, did nothing to acquire personal financial gain and never lied under oath like Rep. Edward Roybal did in 1978 "for failing to report $1,000 in campaign contributions [which he appropriated for personal use] from a South Korean lobbyist."

And mention of Korea is something conjured by Ben Stein, the noted financial commentator and consultant, who views Rangel as his hero. "Charles Rangel is a genuine American hero," Stein said in a statement. "In unbelievably difficult service in the Korean War, his unit was swamped, cut off, overwhelmed by hordes of Red Chinese crossing into Korea. In the worst cold weather imaginable, under fire, starving, acting Sergeant Charles Rangel, in a Black unit led mostly by white officers, took a large group of men, led them by example, lifted their morale, as they fought their way out to safety.

"Men were being shot, freezing, getting captured all around him," Stein continued, "yet he got most of his men out. For this leadership, sacrifice and courage, Mr. Rangel was awarded a Bronze Star with a V for Valor."

Stein admits that Rangel "apparently failed to report rental income from a dwelling in the Caribbean, used his office stationery for fundraising for a school named after him, and used a rent-stabilized apartment for a political office. For this, the punishment is publicly shaming by being censured.

"Now, just to me (whom you all know as a lifelong Republican)," Stein said, "Rangel's misdeeds seem like extremely trivial matters. The IRS has not prosecuted him for tax evasion. When you are a busy man, small tax issues can get lost in the shuffle. The other two matters just seem like total and utter nothings."

And that is just what thousands of Rangel's supporters are declaring.