Rangel’s in trouble, but Ensign’s in even worse shape

RANGEL’S IN TROUBLE, BUT ENSIGN’S IN EVEN WORSE SHAPE…. The Washington Post has run a couple of items over the last day noting the ethics allegations surrounding Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.). Today’s article noted that Rangel’s intention to fight the charges “could wind up tarnishing the whole party just weeks before the midterm elections.”

There’s no doubt that the Rangel ethics matter is serious. It may even be time for the 20-term lawmaker to gracefully step aside before the probe permanently tarnishes his legacy.

But while the ethics investigation into a House Democrat has generated considerable attention, you may not have heard that a conservative Republican senator conceded yesterday that he’s cooperating with a federal criminal investigation of another conservative Republican senator.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) has turned over e-mails to federal authorities investigating Sen. John Ensign’s extramarital affair with a campaign aide, the latest sign that the criminal probe into the embattled Nevada Republican is picking up steam.

Coburn told POLITICO that he is cooperating with the Justice Department in the investigation of Ensign, and says he’s willing to submit himself to an interview with the FBI or Senate Select Committee on Ethics, which is conducting a parallel investigation into whether Ensign broke Senate rules.

“We’ve given them everything they wanted,” Coburn said, referring to the Justice Department.

That’s the right move for Coburn. A year ago, the right-wing Oklahoman suggested he might not cooperate, arguig that he, as a medical professional, considered Ensign his patient. (Given that Coburn is an OB-GYN, the argument defied any reasonable understanding of logic and anatomy.)

Coburn wisely decided not to pursue this. Rather than fighting, the Oklahoma Republican reportedly turned over more than 1,200 pages of documents to the Justice Department.

Coburn’s revelations — made late on a Friday afternoon — come on the heels of news that Ensign’s aides have told investigators that the senator knew he was violating ethics rules on lobbying restrictions, but did it anyway.

I continue to marvel at this scandal. Here we have John Ensign, a “family values” conservative Republican, who had an extra-marital sexual relationship with his friend’s wife, while condemning others’ moral failings. Ensign’s parents offered to pay hush-money. He ignored ethics laws and tried to use his office to arrange lobbying jobs for his mistress’ husband. The likelihood of Ensign being indicted seems fairly high.

And yet, there’s no media frenzy. No reporters staked out in front of Ensign’s home. No op-eds speculating about the need for Ensign to resign in disgrace. Instead, the media’s fascinated with Charlie Rangel.

Rangel is facing a probe from the House ethics committee, while Ensign is under scrutiny from the FBI.

Why would Rangel “tarnish his whole party” in an election year, while Ensign’s sex-ethics-corruption scandal be deemed irrelevant to the Republican Party?