So why are Representatives Charles B. Rangel, a New York Democrat, and Maxine Waters, a California Democrat, facing the rare spectacle of public ethics trials for actions their defenders say are just business as usual in Congress?
Both cases also involve personal causes — for Ms. Waters, the financial investments of her husband, and for Mr. Rangel, an education center set up in his name in New York.
So, it is little wonder...
With their integrity under attack after widespread news reports, Mr. Rangel and Ms. Waters are fighting the charges instead of simply accepting a modest punishment.
As a result, Washington has suddenly become fixated on ethics issues, including the continuing investigation of Senator John Ensign, a Republican from Nevada, who has been accused of improperly intervening with federal regulators at the request of a former aide, whose wife had an affair with the senator.
It is getting to the point where the Bishop is about to enter the room...
Mr. McConnell of Kentucky, the Senate minority leader, has helped raise money from corporate donors, including RJR Nabisco, Toyota and military defense contractors, for a center named after him at the University of Louisville, Mr. Rangel’s lawyers point out.
“We provide these examples not as part of an “everyone does it” defense, but rather to demonstrate that these activities have never been regarded as creating an improper benefit to a member,” Mr. Rangel’s lawyers wrote.
The House ethics panel that investigated his case disagreed.
The committee said that not only did he appeal for contributions from companies like Verizon, New York Life Insurance and American International Group, which all had major legislative matters before his committee, but he also made those appeals on official House stationery, with the help of his House aides.
Good grief!! Where have I heard that line before? Was it Winnie the Pooh? Or was it one of Auntie Helen's unterlings?
But the heart of the matter has to be -
And there was an unusually close overlap, the committee contended, between appeals for donations and his intervention on legislative matters, citing in particular a meeting Mr. Rangel held in 2007 at a New York hotel with an executive from an oil drilling company at which he made a bid for a donation and also discussed a tax break the company was seeking.
The executive, Eugene Isenberg, and his company ended up making a $1 million contribution to the educational center, and Mr. Rangel helped the company secure a tax break worth an estimated $500 million.
So when I reach the last para of NYT's article -
“There is definitely a heightened concern and sensitivity about political and charitable contributions and the timing in relation to official actions,” said Kenneth A. Gross, an ethics defense lawyer. “It’s a big issue out there right now, and these are very rough waters to navigate.”
... I am left with the very strong impression that there will be a new euphemism for the "C" word emerging in the not too distant future. It may not even be within the term of the present Administration, so (as the shampoo ad says) "it may not happen overnight, but it will happen".