Congressman Charlie Rangel: We have your back.
That was the theme of Thursday morning’s news conference outside of City Hall, where fellow politicians, nonprofit leaders and businessmen all stood up for the embattled Rangel, who has faced attacks from the right wing calling for him to step down from some of his more prominent positions on congressional committees.
“It’s a bum rush, as one might say,” said State Sen. Bill Perkins. “It will create guilt without process, and I don’t think in that respect it’s anti-American, it’s unfair. And it’s almost clearly contrived in some respects.” Perkins was joined by figures like former New York City Mayor David Dinkins, former City Comptroller H. Carl McCall and the Rev. Calvin Butts.
Herbert Pardes, president and CEO of New York Presbyterian Hospital, chimed in as well. “In this country, you’re presumed innocent before you’re proved guilty, and that should apply to everybody,” he said.
Rangel is facing serious repercussions if the House of Representatives’ investigation decides that he mismanaged personal funds and improperly accepted free trips–a subject that Rangel has openly discussed with the AmNews recently and vehemently denied. Specifically, Rangel is in danger of losing his chairmanship of the Ways and Means Committee in the House. The committee is responsible for writing tax policy.
While it was Rangel himself who suggested that the House Ethics Committee proceed with its investigation, to some, Rangel’s potential ouster looks and smells like an old school political power move.
“I think that many people may not understand the congressman because he’s a very complex person,” said Kathryn Wylde, president and CEO of Partnership for New York City. “Many elected representatives pick one constituency to represent, whether it’s their district or a particular industry. The Texas guys represent oil; the Iowa guys represent the farms. Congressman Rangel has, on the one hand, represented international businesses that are the core of the New York economy and, at the same time, he’s represented disaffected youth and the poor, working-class people.”
Wylde continued, “He’s had a very complicated assignment and he’s handled it beautifully for 40 years, and I think that, in the process, he probably isn’t well understood by many people because it’s so tough to represent such a diverse constituency.”
Rangel has many achievements, on top of his aforementioned diverse cast of friends and partners. He’s managed to obtain funds that were crucial to New York City. He was able to direct stimulus money from President Barack Obama towards the city’s public housing. He’s understood that defending immigrant rights, while not popular in the so-called “flyover states,” is crucial to a city that sees thousands of new immigrants arrive each year in the city with dreams of prosperity. As a champion of the rights of the city’s underprivileged, Rangel has managed to toe all lines effectively and gracefully–something that Brooklyn Councilwoman Letitia James feels make Rangel one of the most significant and influential politicians in recent memory.
“He’s a historical icon and I, among many others, stand on his shoulders,” said James. “There seems to be this right-wing attempt to go after senior leaders, and Charlie Rangel commands so much respect not only in New York, but across the nation.”
Some folks, not on record though, alluded to Rangel-directed attacks as a result of jealously and prejudice towards New York City, a Black congressman in a position of power and his diverse group of acquaintances.
There’s no doubt that Rangel has made a sizable impact on city, state and national politics. Something that Steve Spinola, president of the Real Estate Board of New York can personally attest to.
“Charlie Rangel, thanks to his years of leadership, is in a very important position in New York State and New York City,” he said. “His voice is critical. We need to make sure he gets a fair shake and a fair deal, and we need to keep him working for the vision he has for the country.” Spinola cited Rangel’s assistance in fighting the loss of state and city local deductibility as one of Rangel top achievements. Spinola said it would be “a problem for our state” if Rangel were to lose his position in Congress.
Literature handed out to the media included a long list of people standing by Rangel in his time of need. It included the likes of Roger Toussaint, of TWU Local 100; Lloyd Williams, of the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce; Howard Rubenstein, of Rubenstein Associates; and Deborah Wright, of Carver Bankcorp Inc. They, along with Kyle Bragg, vice president and director of the residential division for SEIU-32BJ, are mortified at the thought of the nation’s capital doing business without Rangel.
“To watch all of these articles come out and demonize him, we needed to step up and talk about the Charlie Rangel that we know–the Rangel we know that has been fighting for decades,” said Bragg. “He has been a champion. It’s because of people like Rangel that you and I are here today and are able to prosper in this nation.
“It is a mandate to be here,” concluded Bragg.
“We will go with whatever the Ethics Committee comes up with,” said Rev. Butts. “We believe he’s a strong representative for our nation, our city and our community.”