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ROBB AUSTIN'S TURN

Joe Schmo: I’m Not the Guy in Congress Now

August 1, 2010

It should be mandatory for members of Congress to go door-to-door in their districts every six months – just to find out what’s on the mind of the voters they represent.

Most members will argue, they have gone door-to-door, but from the looks of their standing among the American people, it’s time to go back, because it seems they’ve forgotten much of what they were originally told.

Little wonder there isn’t one member up in the November mid-term elections that doesn’t stand a chance to lose. Yes, every member, from both parties, might lose this year, and the dirty little secret is, the country would be no less off if that should happen.

My advice to any challenger running for Congress this year – Republican or Democrat – is to spend money on only one campaign sign, one that should simply read: “Joe Schmo: I’m Not the Guy in Congress Now”.

Forget about everything else they taught you in campaign school – run on that one phrase alone – and flood the district with that message – and any non-incumbent will stand a 50-50 chance of being elected to Congress in November.

Fact is, voters don’t care anymore, and they realize it matters little, who they send to Washington, and there’s little wonder as to why.

The latest congressional embarrassment is 40-year incumbent Charles Rangel (D-NY) – who is headed toward a public trial over a multitude of federal charges stemming from a 21-month investigation into his financial dealings by the House Ethics Committee.

The investigative arm of the committee announced 13 separate charges – accusing him of violating various House rules and federal statutes. We are also learning about charges being brought against Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), who the ethics commitee is also alleging violated several House rules.

The charges against Rangel are so clear – and if he were innocent – they would be so easily dismissed – the upcoming trial will only add to the public’s mistrust and anger with every member of Congress.

One of the charges alleges he failed to income taxes on rental income from a villa he owns in the Dominican Republic, and another says he failed to report more than $600,000 in income on his federal financial disclosure reports.

The investigation itself was all inclusive, reportedly involving more than 28,000 pages of documents, 50 depositions, issued over 160 formal requests for documents, and held over 60 meetings on the matter. There’s not much gray in any of these charges – and while Congressman Rangel is certainly innocent until proven guilty – it will be interesting to hear his defense.

No doubt he will claim some hair-splitting nuisance as the reason he either failed to report the income – or similarly charge that investigators failed to read things correctly.

So it is with explanations from members of Congress, and this is why the public’s disgust has reached an all-time high with the legislative branch of government.

Rangel himself played the race card, calling the charges a “public lynching”, and said the report contained “no inference of corruption”, and has repeatedly said he will fight the charges and be cleared of any wrongdoing in the final analysis.

The public, of course, has a different idea on what is and isn’t “corruption” and they will let Rangel know their own views in the mid-term elections just three months away.

While things will not be easy for Rangel, the elections won’t be much easier for the remaining 434 members of Congress, in part, thanks to their colleague Rangel, and members like him.

We’ll soon find out how many Joe Schmo’s will be elected to Congress next year.

If challengers take my advice, my guess is, plenty.