New York — “I am not going away,” 40-year veteran Rep. Charles Rangel (D., N.Y.) told his House colleagues on Tuesday. “You’re not going to tell me to resign to make you feel comfortable,” the 80-year-old lawmaker added in an unfocused half-hour jeremiad in which he defended himself against the House Ethics Committee’s 13 charges against him. The committee’s 40-page “Statement of Alleged Violation” concludes that Rangel’s “pattern of indifference or disregard for the laws, rules, and regulations of the United States and the House of Representatives is a serious violation.”
Among many other things, Rangel allegedly abused a rent-controlled Harlem residential apartment as his local congressional office and used House stationery and employees to solicit donations for a Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service from companies with business before the Ways and Means Committee, which he once chaired. According to the Ethics Committee, he also failed to declare “his ownership of vacant lots in New Jersey,” and neither disclosed nor paid taxes on rental income from a Dominican condo. All told, the committee stated, Rangel’s “accumulation of action reflected poorly on the institution of the House and, thereby, brought discredit to the House.”
Michel Faulkner hopes Harlemites have had enough. The 53-year-old ordained Baptist minister and former Virginia Tech All-American football player is seeking to unseat Rangel — as a Republican. And a black one at that.
“I must have shaken 1,000 hands yesterday,” he says over gazpacho at Bill’s Gay ’90s, a former speakeasy on Midtown Manhattan’s West 54th Street. He had spent the previous afternoon campaigning on a street corner while a doo-wop band called the Seasoned Blend serenaded voters.
“Wouldn’t it be nice if the poor kicked the liberals out of their lives?” Faulkner smiles. “Imagine if they told them: ‘We don’t want you to be our pimps anymore.’”
Faulkner wants to reverse four decades of Rangel’s big-government activism, massive spending, and high taxes. Faulkner proudly signed Americans for Tax Reform’s “no new taxes” pledge. He also decried the profound unfairness of the death tax, which is set to skyrocket from 0 to 55 percent come 2011.
“If the late George Steinbrenner had died next January,” Faulkner says, “his family would have to sell the Yankees just to pay the death tax.”
Faulkner sees Obamacare as a stillbirth that should be sped off to the morgue.
“The debate never was about health care,” says Faulkner, whose 6-foot-3 frame boosts his air of authority. “It always was about money. Congress signed a contract on a house that had not been built yet. The bill was a crime against America. It dangled some things in the faces of people who needed health coverage. And then it politicized the whole thing. I hate this law more every day.”
If elected, Faulkner would gather entrepreneurs and ask them for their advice on reinvigorating the economy. “The problem is that bureaucrats are trying to create jobs,” Faulkner says. “They know nothing about creating jobs.”