By Larry Margasak
WASHINGTON – Rep. Charles Rangel, once one of the most influential House members, was convicted Tuesday on 11 counts of breaking ethics rules and now faces punishment.
An ethics panel of eight House peers deliberated over two days before delivering a jarring blow to the 20-term New York Democrat’s career. The 80-year-old Rangel was charged with 13 counts of financial and fundraising misconduct.
Only last spring, Rangel held the exalted post of Ways and Means chairman, a position that made him the House’s main writer of tax legislation. The Harlem congressman was not present when the verdict was announced.
The full ethics committee will now conduct a hearing on the appropriate punishment for Rangel, the silver-haired, gravelly-voiced and sartorially flashy veteran of 20 terms in the House.
The next step for the committee is to make a recommendation on punishment to the House.
Possible sanctions include a House vote deploring Rangel’s conduct, a fine and denial of privileges.
The congressional panel, sitting as a jury, found that Rangel had used House stationery and staff to solicit money for a New York college center named after him. It also concluded he solicited donors for the center with interests before the Ways and Means Committee, leaving the impression the money could influence official actions.
He also was found guilty of failing to disclose at least $600,000 in assets and income in a series of inaccurate reports to Congress; using a rent-subsidized New York apartment for a campaign office, when it was designated for residential use; and failure to report to the IRS rental income from a housing unit in a Dominican Republic resort.
Congressman Charles B. Rangel released the following statement:
“How can anyone have confidence in the decision of the Ethics Subcommittee when I was deprived of due process rights, right to counsel and was not even in the room? I can only hope that the full Committee will treat me more fairly, and take into account my entire 40 years of service to the Congress before making any decisions on sanctions.
I am disappointed by the unfortunate findings of the Ethics Subcommittee. The Committee’s actions are unprecedented in view of the fact that they arrived at without rebuttal or counter evidence on my behalf.
While I am required to accept the findings of the Ethics Committee, I am compelled to state again the unfairness of its continuation without affording me the opportunity to obtain legal counsel as guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution.
This unfair decision is the inevitable result of the Committee’s insistence on moving forward despite the absence of any legal representation on my behalf. The Committee elected to reject my appeal for additional time to secure new counsel and thus acted in violation of the basic constitutional right to counsel.
The Committee’s findings are even more difficult to understand in view of yesterday’s declaration by the Committee’s chief counsel, Blake Chisam, that there was no evidence of corruption or personal gain in his findings.
From here forward, it is my hope that the full Ethics Committee will take into consideration the opinion of its chief counsel as well as the statement by Rep. Bobby Scott, a member of its investigatory subcommittee who said that any failings in my conduct were the result of “good faith mistakes” and were caused by “sloppy and careless recordkeeping, but were not criminal or corrupt.”