Published: Dec 17, 2013 6:18 PM EST
Updated: Jan 07, 2014 5:20 PM EST

FORT MYERS, Fla.- WINK News uncovers what's at stake for Congressman Trey Radel's political career now that his drug charge is at the center of a House Ethics Investigation.

Radel is being treated at a rehab facility in Naples for alcoholism.  He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor cocaine possession charge on November 20th after he allegedly tried to buy cocaine from an undercover agent.

The House Ethics Committee unanimously voted on December 12 to establish an Investigative Subcommittee.  The bi-partisan commitee will "determine  whether Representative Henry J. "Trey" Radel III violated the Code of Official Conduct or any law, rule, regulation, or other applicable standard of conduct in the performance of his duties or the discharge of his responsibilities."

If the committee finds him in violation, Congressman Radel faces a number of consequences.  He could be reprimanded or censured.  Experts say those two punishments are synonymous.  They basically mean a show of disapproval through a resolution voted on by the House.  It needs a simple majority to pass.  In some cases, members have been banned from chairing committees or other leadership positions, and have had to pay fines.

The most severe punishment is expulsion which takes a two-thirds majority vote by the full House of Representatives.  Discipline of a house member is very rare.  In fact, throughout history, only five members have received expulsion.  Three of the five were removed during the Civil War Period.

Most members who face punishment usually resign or ultimately lose in their re-election bids.

Rep. Trey Radel is a former WINK-TV news anchor and conservative talk show host on 92.5 Fox News Radio in Fort Myers.