Friday, 05 December 2008


Ken Berwitz

Just when you thought there were no other scandals left for Charles Rangel to be involved with....we have this, courtesy of

Tangled Web: Rangel son got campaign cash


Between 2004 and 2007, Rep. Charles Rangel steered nearly $80,000 in campaign cash to an Internet company run by his son paying lavishly for a pair of political Web sites so poorly designed an expert estimated one should have cost no more than $100 to create.

The payments are apparently legal under federal law, but their disclosure raises new questions about the Ways and Means chairman as he faces House ethics committee probes into his failure to pay taxes on rental income and his alleged use of House stationery to solicit contributions for a public policy center that bears his name.

Rangels leadership PAC and congressional committee shelled out $79,560 to Edisonian Innovative Works LLC for websites, according to Federal Election Commission filings.

Edisonian Innovative Works, which lists several clients on its homepage none of them politicians was founded by Rangels son, Steven Charles Rangel, 40, of Greenbelt, Md.

This is probably legal but is definitely wrong, said Meredith McGehee of the Campaign Legal Center, a nonprofit organization that monitors compliance with electoral law.

You're in a situation where you were given money for a campaign and it's being used to enrich family members, she added. The return argument is they're performing legitimate services. The question that needs to be asked in this case is: Was this a legitimate payment or was this a payoff?

Rangel spokesman Emile Milne said Rangels son was a valuable member of the congressmans re-election team and was paid a modest monthly retainer to build, maintain, update and publicize the site.

Steven Rangel's firm was paid roughly $2,500 on a monthly basisless than the firm that had previously managed Congressman Rangel's Web and on-line operation (Network Politics)and the firm's fees included money for Web advertising designed to promote traffic to the Web site, Milne wrote in an e-mail message to Politico.

In 2007, the Rangel political organization made the decision to go with a scaled-back Web presence and hired NGP software to run the site, he added.

Still, the sum paid to Rangels son was the most paid for Web sites by any House member during the 2004-to-2006 election period, according to an analysis of Federal Election Commission filings provided to Politico by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

Rep. Ralph Regula (R-Ohio) and since-ousted Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) were distant runners up, shelling out $44,000 and $30,000 for their Web sites, respectively, during the 2006 cycle.

Both Regula and Shays may have needed the exposure to fend off serious challengers. Rangel, a Harlem Democrat and dean of his states House delegation, hasnt faced serious competition in years and retained his seat with 94 percent of the vote in 2006.

The vast majority of House candidates who set up campaign sites in 2006 paid a relative pittance, with 200 members spending less than $10,000 each for Web sites, according to the CRP analysis.

The payments to Steven Rangel began in mid-2004 and stopped in early 2007 when the former Marine, who is also a lawyer, was hired by the House Energy and Commerce Committee as an $80,000-per-year investigative counsel, according to records.

It is difficult and often misleading to compare what individual members pay for Web services because of the wide range of activities that Web sites can support, depending on what campaigns choose to do with their sites, Milne said.

Steven Rangel is close to his father and has long played an active role in his campaigns, even videotaping his dads campaign events in the early 1980s. The 78-year-old chairman often sleeps at his sons house in Maryland, according to people who know both men.

Does this pass the sniff test? 

Rangel paid multiples more than almost every other congressperson for his web site services.  The two next closest, whose expenditures averaged out to less than half what Rangel spent, were in pitched battles for their congressional seats.  Rangel was in no battle at all, and probably could have won re-election without even campaigning.

And - coincidence of coincidences - the web site money went to.....his son. 

How many more scandals does it take for Charles Rangel to be reprimanded, or censured, or expelled from his house seat. 

What does it take to have him removed as chair of the House Ways And Means Committee? 

The cheating on his New York residence and his Carribean getaway weren't enough, so maybe this technically-legal-but-unbelievably-shady web site scandal will be.  Bur I doubt it.

Lucky for Rangel that he wasn't caught on tape saying something nice about Sarah Palin. 


Ken Berwitz

In 1995, when OJ Simpson was acquitted of murdering his former wife Nicole and Ron Goldman, he vowed to search for the real killers.  He appears to have spent most of the last 13 or so years searching for those killers on golf courses and in night clubs throughout Florida and other similarly likely hiding places.  

In September of last year, however, Mr. Simpson took time out from his search and attempted, with accomplices, to steal (or take back as he claims) his memorabilia which was on display in Las Vegas for the purpose of being sold.

Mr. Simpson was charged with, among other things, criminal conspiracy, robbery, assault with a deadly weapon and kidnapping.  He was convicted on all counts.

Today he was sentenced.  Barring appeal, the least amount of time he will spend in jail (assuming they'll let him out on parole as soon as the law allows) is 9 years.  He could spend up to 33 years in jail which, given his age (61), is effectively a life sentence. 

Further, Judge Jackie Glass ruled Simpson could not be let out on bail.  So if he appeals the sentence it will be from his jail cell.

What a sorry excuse for a man OJ Simpson is.  And what a fall from the top of the mountain.  He had everything.  Now all he's going to have is three hots and a cot.

If you asked the Goldmans or his former wife's family, I'm sure they would tell you that is far too much.


Ken Berwitz

I haven't done this in a while, but today's the day. 

Jimmy Cannon, the great sportswriter, used to do a column with this heading every month or two (as I remember - it's been many years) in which he just tossed in bits and pieces of unrelated commentary.  Here is my version:

   -David Gregory is apparently going to be the next host of Meet The Press.  In my opinion, he was a major jerk as NBC's White House correspondent because he didn't know how to separate his personal animus toward George Bush from his professional journalistic duties (admittedly that might have gotten him a raise at NBC).  On the other hand when I've seen him do interviews on MSNBC and the Today show he has been surprisingly evenhanded.  I'll wait and see which Gregory shows up Sunday mornings.

   -I wish I could get Hank and Hal Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman's attention for about 30 seconds, so I could beg them to withdraw their idiotic, depressing offer of $140 million to C. C. Sabathia.  The offer was made four weeks ago, no one else has come anywhere near matching it, and he hasn't signed anyway. 

Could this man make it any clearer that he doesn't want to be a New York Yankee?  What's the fun of watching a team whose ace pitcher has told you flat-out that he wishes he was somewhere else?  It strips 100% of the enjoyment from the game. 

Besides, as my (baseball fanatic) son has pointed out, Sabathia may be great in the regular season but has an absolutely abysmal post-season record.  (In his last two post-seasons he was 1-3 with a 9.48 earned run average).  When you play for teams like Cleveland and Milwaukee, the pressure is on in the post-season.  When you play for New York, the pressure is on every time you pitch, even in April.  With that in mind, why would anyone have confidence that Sabathia could handle The Big Apple?

   -I don't like the man, but I would chip in money to get Barney Frank a set of upper dentures.  If I want to see and hear Elmer Fudd I prefer the Cartoon Network to the floor of the House of Representatives. 

   -Jane Napolitano may not have extensive credentials in homeland security, but she may be a very good pick to head the department.  At least she had the cajones (if that's the right term for a woman) to get serious with illegal aliens in Arizona.

And Ed Rendell's comments about her having no life (i.e. no family)?  While it was embarrassing that he was heard saying this near an open microphone, it is clear that he meant nothing negative towards Ms. Napolitano.  Some incidents should just be forgotten, and this is one of them. 

   -Speaking of Ed Rendell, I really like the man.  He's gruff, unurbane (I wonder if that's an actual word) and much more honest-sounding than most politicians.  He reminds me of the middle-aged guys I used to see on Main Street in Kew Garden Hills, Queens, when we hung out in front of Sam's Candy Store at night. 

At about 9:15 the early "bulldog" edition of the next day's newspapers would be delivered.  There was always a bunch of those guys waiting for that delivery so they could buy the Daily Mirror, which had the most complete horseracing section of any paper in New York.  They'd immediately go to the racing forms, read the odds, compare the handicappers' "expert picks" for the next day's races and then animatedly argue back and forth about which horses to bet on.  I don't know if Ed Rendell is a horseracing fan, but he would have fit right in with that crowd.

   -Now I'm memory-flashing about Sam, who owned the candy store (that's a luncheonette to you non-New Yorkers).  Sam was an old, huskily-built man with a thick Eastern European accent.  He and his wife Sophie worked like a team of oxen to keep the store going.  I imagine that they were refugees who either escaped the concentration camps or survived them. 

Sam had the widest feet I've ever seen.  He told me they were double F.  I used to fantasize him accidentally putting his shoes on sideways and not noticing because they fit anyway.

   -If Chris Dodd were not a Democrat, would he still be in the senate?  He was neck deep in Enron and he's neck deep in the subprime catastrophe.  I would call him doddering too, but far be it from me to make bad puns....

   -French Prime Minister Nicolas Sarkozy's wife is Carla Bruni-Sarkozy.  She is beautiful.  And hot.  And uninhibited.  And talented.  Lucky guy.

   -I know the reason is that the economy is down the crapper.  But I have to admit it feels good to pay in the $1.50's per gallon for gas these days. 

   -Speaking of liquids by the gallon, do you know what coffee costs in a hotel if you rent one of their meeting rooms and order some?  In downtown Chicago they sell it not by the cup or pot, but by the gallon (how inviting).  And, having called 5 hotels within a few blocks of my business on the Magnificent Mile, the average price for that gallon of coffee is $70.  Two of the hotels were at $95 and $97. Jaw-dropping.

   -I hate to wear hats.  But in cold weather, those earmuffs that go around the back of your head rather than over the top (so your hair doesn't get messed up) are great.

   -How is Plaxico Burress going to explain his not guilty plea, when he shot himself in the leg?  Is he going to claim there was no gun?  The bullet hole through his leg is a problem on that one.  Is he going to claim it wasn't his and/or he didn't shoot it?  The gun was in his pants.  Maybe he thinks that if a judge finds him guilty he can throw a red flag and challenge the ruling. 

I'm joking about this, but the truth is that it's not funny. New York has a mandatory 3 1/2 year sentence for illegally carrying a concealed gun, and that's what he did.  Burress just signed a multi-year contract with the New York Giants.  The court system, it seems to me, is going to give him a contract that supersedes it.  With an incentive clause for good behavior.

   -Open Pit, in my opinion, is hands-down the best store bought barbecue sauce sold anywhere -- and among the least expensive too(what a great combination!).  Unfortunately, even though it is a huge seller in other parts of the country, I can't find supermarkets that carry it anywhere near where I live.  The closest I know of is the Gristedes chain in Manhattan. 

   -At my sons' urging, I crossed the Rubicon a couple of weeks ago and replaced my "clamshell-style" cell phone with a Blackberry.  There are things I'll never like about it, but I have to admit that it makes retrieving e-mail easy as pie.  Besides, as I was assured by both boys, it makes me look far more current at business meetings.


Ken Berwitz

The great, great Little Richard (Richard Penniman, actually) is 76 years old today.  It would be a crime to let his birthday pass without acknowledgement.

You may or may not like rock and roll.  But Little Richard is the single most important root of the genre.  He was the first Black artist I know of who sang in an unapologetically "Black" way to White audiences. 

Racists hated him for it.  Kids loved his music.  Happy to say, the kids won in a rout.

Little Richard has had a unique career, which includes two extended periods as an evangelical Christian minister and occasional acting in the movies.  But his amazingly earthy, from-the-gut singing, pounding piano (that gave Jerry Lee Lewis a lesson in how it's done), his unmistakable scratchy voice, the soaring falsetto "whoooooooooo's" and the emotional screams are what puts him in the history books. 

Happy, birthday, Little Richard, and please don't stop singing.  Miss Molly, Jenny, Lucille, Miss Clawdy and Long Tall Sally need you more than ever.


Ken Berwitz

Can Oprah Winfrey really be upset that Sarah Palin hasn't come on her show?  It would require a hubris level somewhere between the ionosphere and the moon surface, but if what I'm reading from Warner Todd Huston at is correct, she is:

Oprah Whines that Sarah Hasn't Come on Oprah Show

Oprah cries: "She talked to Greta. She talked to Matt. She talked to Larry. But she didnt talk to me"

Apparently, Oprah is whining that Sarah Palin won't come on her show now that the election is over. But, who can blame Governor Palin for snubbing Oprah after the nasty things Oprah reportedly said about her before the election?

In an interview with TV tabloid schlocker Extra, Oprah acted all shocked that Palin has yet to agree to an "O" interview.

"I said I would be happy to talk to Sarah Palin when the election was over... I went and tried to talk to Sarah Palin and instead she talked to Greta [Van Susteren]. She talked to Matt [Lauer]. She talked to Larry [King]. But she didnt talk to me. But maybe she'll talk to me now that she has a [multi-million dollar] book deal."

It might be remembered that back in September, Drudge reported that Oprah had been heard to say that she would never interview Sarah Palin. Not long after the Drudge flash, Oprah issued a press release where she denied the reports of the mean things she said about Palin. Oprah made some vague claim that she had "decided" not to open her show for political candidates despite the fact that she was an open participant in Barack Obama's campaign and had the now president elect and his wife on her show several times during the campaigns.

So, now Oprah is wide eyed with shock that Palin has snubbed her thus far?

Talk about clueless! Vacuity reigns supreme in Chicago, I guess.

I disagree with Huston's characterization of this as "vacuity".  It is hubris.

Look, Ms. Winfrey has been on top of the world for over 20 years, is beloved by countless people, has received boatloads of accolades (most of them well deserved) and has amassed a major fortune. 

Although I have not had the pleasure of finding out first-hand, I assume it is very hard not to get a swelled head under these circumstances. 

I understand why Ms. Winfrey might start thinking that the sun, moon and stars revolve around her and that an invitation to her show is heaven-sent, even if she has treated the would-be guest like dirt up to that time.

But it isn't. 

Sarah Palin has taken Oprah Winfrey down a notch or two.  Good.  Based on her whining amazement that Ms. Palin didn't come running, Ms. Winfrey pretty obviously needs it.

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