Panel Accuses Rangel Of 13 Ethics Violations
Rep. Charles Rangel was charged with 13 violations of congressional ethics rules by a panel of his peers on Thursday, the latest move in a process that could lead to censure or expulsion for the New York Democrat.
The eight House lawmakers — four Republicans and four Democrats — presented the charges after last-minute pleas from fellow Democrats for Rangel to cut a deal and resign were turned aside.
The charges include allegations that Rangel failed to report rental income on vacation property in the Dominican Republic and over the course of nearly a decade failed to report more than $600,000 on his financial disclosure statements.
The hearing acts as an arraignment, and a full trial will take place in September, following a seven-week summer recess.
Rangel, 80, is tied for fourth in House seniority, having served for 40 years.
Earlier, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had said pursuing the ethics case was "a serious responsibility" and "the chips will have to fall where they may, politically."
Rangel has repeatedly said he looks forward to a public discussion of the allegations, which also involve alleged use of his office to raise money for a New York college wing named in his honor and violations of New York City rules regarding use of rent-controlled property.
At a news conference last week in Harlem, Rangel sounded defiant. "I'm in the kitchen and I'm not walking out," he said.
But by Thursday morning, hours before the charges were presented, he sounded less upbeat. Speaking to reporters, Rangel said he survived a Chinese attack in North Korea 60 years ago while serving in the military. As a result, he says, "I haven't had a bad day since." But, Rangel said, "Today I have to reassess that statement."
Rangel's alleged misdeeds, and what Congress will do if he's found guilty, are a politically delicate issue for Democrats in an especially tough election year. Two Democrats, Reps. Betty Sutton of Ohio and Walt Minnick of Idaho, have called openly for Rangel to resign. Others were waiting to see more evidence before making a decision.
"I think everyone is looking forward to getting all the facts out in the open, and people will have to react once we know what we're dealing with," said Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL).
On Wednesday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said of the Rangel situation that "everybody would like to have it go away."
NPR news analyst Juan Williams said there had been "tremendous pressure" from Democrats for Rangel to spare the House from disciplinary proceedings. The last time such a hearing was held was in 2002, when then-Rep. James Traficant (D-OH) was expelled after being found guilty of corruption. He subsequently served a seven-year prison sentence.
"I think what you're seeing here is a very proud man — Charlie Rangel — who doesn't want to admit to such broad charges because it would literally besmirch his legacy," Williams said on Morning Edition.
Rangel stepped down as chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee in March after the ethics committee criticized him in a separate case, saying he should have known that corporate money paid for two trips to Caribbean conferences.
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