WASHINGTON (AP) - Rep. Charles Rangel, who has spent half of his
80 years as a member of Congress, says he looks forward to fighting
ethics charges. Other Democrats won't be so pleased.
The ethics trial sought by the New York congressman and former
Ways and Means Committee chairman will coincide with campaign
season. Democrats will have to defend their party's conduct. If
enough of them lose, the party could cede control of the House.
Republicans are already going negative, reminding voters that
Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised to "drain the swamp" of ethical
misdeeds in Congress.
Rangel had a choice.
His lawyer had been negotiating with the House ethics committee
to settle his case. But to end it, Rangel would have had to accept
the allegations. Rangel had been willing to accept some, but that
didn't satisfy the committee, according to a person familiar with
the talks but not authorized to be quoted by name.
"I look forward to airing this thing," Rangel, who is tied for
fourth in House seniority, told reporters Thursday, insisting the
allegations against him have no substance.
"I am pleased that, at long last, sunshine will pierce the
cloud of serious allegations that have been raised against me in
the media," he said.
It was disclosed Thursday that Rangel is being charged with
multiple ethics violations. The ethics committee won't reveal the
specific charges until next Thursday at a public meeting. However,
several persons familiar with the allegations, who were not
authorized to discuss them publicly, said some of the charges
against Rangel, who has spent 40 years in Congress, were related
-Rangel's use of official stationery to raise money for the
Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at City College of New
-His use of four rent-subsidized apartment units in New York
City. The city's rent stabilization program is supposed to apply to
one's primary residence. One had been used as a campaign office,
raising a separate question of whether the rent break was an
-Rangel's failure to report income as required on his annual
financial disclosure forms. The committee had investigated his
failure to report income from the lawmaker's rental unit at the
Punta Cana Yacht Club in the Dominican Republic. Rangel also
belatedly disclosed hundreds of thousands of dollars in investment
Sanctions can range from a damaging committee report to censure
by the House and even expulsion, a punishment reserved for only the
most egregious violations.
Ironically, Rangel raised money for scores of Democratic
candidates before his ethics problems surfaced. Now, many Democrats
wouldn't touch a contribution from Rangel's leadership fund and
might pressure him to accept the charges or even get out of his
Rangel announced a bid for his 21st term recently, shortly
before his 80th birthday. To many in his famed Harlem district of
New York City, Rangel is the only congressman they've known. Older
constituents remember him as a Korean War hero with a Purple Heart
and Bronze Star.
"If you ask me how I feel about it, I feel extraordinarily good
that my supporters over 40 years will be able to evaluate what they
have come up with and I don't have any fear at all politically or
personally what they come up with," he said.
Pelosi spokesman Brendan Daly said the action taken against
Rangel "would indicate that the independent, bipartisan ethics
committee process is moving forward."
The last time a Rangel ethics case moved forward, the ethics
committee concluded earlier this year that the lawmaker violated
House rules on two trips to Caribbean conferences. The committee
said Rangel should have known that corporate money paid for the
Rangel, still chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means
Committee at the time, initially said he wouldn't step down from
his post. After a closed-door meeting with Pelosi while reporters
waited outside, Rangel changed his mind. He stepped aside from a
chairmanship he may never get back, because of concerns that
staying in the position would hurt other Democrats.
This time, he decided to fight on.