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Ethics Committee Recommends Censure for Charlie Rangel

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Two days after Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) was found guilty of 11 ethics violations by a House ethics subcommittee, the full ethics committee voted nine to one to recommend that the House of Representatives censure Rangel for his "lack of attention and carelessness" and for bringing "discredit to the House and serving to undermine public trust" of the institution. They also recommended Rangel pay restitution for unpaid taxes related to a home in the Dominican Republic.

In an extraordinary move before the sentence came down, Rangel released a statement apologizing for his conduct. "This has been one of the most difficult days of my life. All of this has been brought upon me as a result of my own actions. In the end, I hope that you would judge me on my entire record as a soldier and a dedicated public servant -- not by my mistakes," he wrote. "To my beloved Colleagues, my constituents and the American people, I am sorry."

Now that the full ethics committee has agreed to a sentence, that recommendation will be sent to the full House, which will vote on Rangel's fate. A censure is administered by a formal vote of the two-thirds of the members of the House disapproving of the conduct of a member. After the vote, the member is usually asked to stand in the well of the House while the speaker of the House reads the censure against him.

Although the committee attorney, Blake Chisam, said he felt Rangel's conduct deserved a punishment somewhere between a reprimand and the harsher censure, Chisam said the fact that Rangel served as the chairman or ranking member of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee when most of the violations occurred merited the harsher sentence.

Charlie RangelOn Tuesday, the adjudicatory subcommittee convicted Rangel on 11 counts of violating House rules. The infractions involved reporting rental income from his villa in the Dominican Republic, using a rent-controlled apartment in New York for campaign activities, and using congressional stationery to raise funds for a center to be built at New York's City University in his name.

A forlorn Rangel arrived for the committee's hearing Thursday, flanked by his friend Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), to make his case for leniency before the 10 committee members. On Tuesday, the congressman walked out of the panel's trial in protest of its decision not to delay the proceedings after he requested more time to find and fund a new legal team. His original defense team separated from Rangel in September. He said he had paid nearly $2 million in legal fees.

An ominous sign for Rangel came early in the sentencing hearing, when Rep. Jo Bonner (R-Ala.), the top Republican on the ethics committee, delivered a blistering opening statement against the 20-term congressman, saying it pained him to speak out against a colleague he has long admired.

"Sadly, it is my unwavering view that the actions, decision and behavior of our colleague from New York can no longer reflect either honor or integrity," Bonner said. "Mr. Rangel can no longer blame anyone other than himself for the position he now finds himself in. Mr. Rangel should only look into the mirror if he wants to know who to blame."

Later, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Tex.) asked Rangel why his failure to pay taxes for 17 years on his Dominican rental property should not be punished harshly by the committee. "What is that?" McCaul said. "How is that different from Mr. [James] Traficant, who failed to pay taxes for two years and was expelled from this body?"

But Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.) strenuously defended Rangel and called censure too extreme for Rangel's actions. "It should be reserved for intentional conduct where the member has derived a personal financial benefit. That is not this case," Butterfield said. "The law in this case establishes no corruption and as judges we should be bound by this fact."

With Lewis by his side, Rangel sat emotionless at the witness table as committee members spoke and as the staff attorney read the lengthy findings against the him. Rangel then rose to defend himself and to take specific issue with Bonner's words.

"I hope that Mr. Bonner was not suggesting my lack of love for this country or this institution," Rangel said. "I look at myself every morning, Mr. Bonner, and I have never blamed my staff, my family or anyone as it related to my violations of House rules."

He also apologized to the committee members for any embarrassment he might have caused them and, holding back tears, appealed for their help in preserving his reputation.

"I recognize that you cannot deal with issues that are not before this committee," he said. "But what the press has done to me, my community and my family is just totally unfair. Counsel knows it, all of you know it. It's not your responsibility to correct that but they will continue to call me a crook and charge me with being a crook."

Although Rangel admitted he was guilty of "faulty behavior" and "wrongdoing," he said his intent was never to enrich himself or deliberately break House rules.

After Rangel spoke Thursday, Lewis rose to defend him as well. "I've known Mr. Rangel for more than 50 years. He is a committed and dedicated, hardworking, patriotic American," Lewis said, explaining that Rangel had traveled to Selma, Ala. in the 1960s to march with him and Martin Luther King, Jr. "Charlie Rangel is a good and decent man. I know this man. I think I know his heart."

Bonner spoke once more to say that as a native of Selma, he thanked Rangel for going there "to do what you did."

The full House can now accept or change the sentence for Rangel. Punishment options include expulsion from the House, but that is considered highly unlikely in this case. The last member of the House to be expelled was Rep. James Traficant (D-Ohio), who later went to federal prison for bribery.

Rangel's predecessor in the House, Adam Clayton Powell Jr., also found himself embroiled in an ethics scandal at the end of his career. After a Judiciary Committee investigation into his conduct, the House formally excluded Powell from the 90th Congress for several infractions, including misuse of public funds. After being expelled, Powell ran in a special election to succeed himself and won, but lost his next election in 1970 -- to Rangel, then a promising 40 year-old former New York prosecutor.

Additional reporting by Kevin Brennan for Politics Daily.

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Quoted from the article: "On Tuesday, the adjudicatory subcommittee convicted Rangel on 11 counts of violating House rules. The infractions involved reporting rental income from his villa in the Dominican Republic, using a rent-controlled apartment in New York for campaign activities, and using congressional stationery to raise funds for a center to be built at New York's City University in his name.? My question: Why are any of these violations? Whose ever had a smooth sublet? What is illegal about using an apartment, rent controlled or not, as campaign headquarters? You don't use company letterhead to impress in order to succeed in raising funds for a worthwhile fund to help New York residents?

December 02 2010 at 8:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

why is he any different than one else.???????

November 29 2010 at 1:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Reminds me of former Washington Mayor Marion Barry who even after they had him on video smoking crack, his defense was that he was "set up". The laugh is like Rangel he's still in office I belive as a Councilman. I'd like to see what would would happen to me if I figuratively even spit on the sidewalk. Two sets of laws and it will probably never change

November 20 2010 at 4:12 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Despite the convenient tears, he pretty much destroyed his legacy in Congress. It's shameful and sad these politicians preach one thing to the people but do whatever the heck they want for themselves.

November 19 2010 at 8:18 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

Censure and restitution - how about all back taxes and PENALTIES that any of us would have to pay if we did not pay the taxes HE imposed when he helped write the tax code. He should so time too! Why is it athletes, movie stars, pop stars and polititcians seem to get treated much differently than the rest of us?

November 19 2010 at 2:59 PM Report abuse +8 rate up rate down Reply

Could it be that Mr. Rangel is a target because of the seat, and the chair that he holds within Congress? Why was he the ONLY target of this committee and Investigator? Who does "Quality Control" here, and for those who recently won these seats? If this is all they could scrape up against him after 40 years of service, should tell the public that he's a decent man, while others have committed more crimes in eight! What part of "he did NOT receive a personal benefit" for ANY of these acts as stated by THE COMMITTEE'S ATTORNEY/PROSECUTOR is not understood? It is one matter to punish someone for wrong doing, but it should be a REQUIREMENT to look at ALL of the circumstances/facts in which they occurred. (1) his taxes were submitted by an CPA/Accountant, (who would not listen to their CPA/Accountant, especially when people even go to retail chains for these services?) and (2) he was asked to rent the space by the owner who did not want it vacant. (3) ALL of the other members who were penalized received "a personal benefit," and were either reprimanded or censured. It should not be ignored, that Congressman Rangel did NOT receive a personal benefit, and he should not be penalized as if he did! It should be less than the reprimand, or a dangerous precedent will be set.

November 19 2010 at 2:49 PM Report abuse -10 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jbatts02's comment

Are you really that naive? Of course he benefited from his actions. He undoubtedly made revenue outside of his reported income (personal benefit). That revenue is quite large and when not properly reported is against the Law. You try it and see what prison you end up as a tenant. That is what he has been found guilty of perpetrating. However, I agree that he is a good man and should be judged on all his deeds.

November 21 2010 at 8:24 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
Bob Gardner

Rangel belongs behind bars. Political correctness will let this snake slide on through with a minor tongue lashing.

November 19 2010 at 2:19 PM Report abuse +10 rate up rate down Reply

Rangels' constituents did not do this man a favor by re-electing him. They should have let him go quietly into that good night, rather than suffer through public humiliation. I am disgusted with what he (and so many others) have done with the powers they have as Congressmen, at the taxpayers' expense, but this song and dance routine of putting on a show by making one of their members squirm, without true justice, just gives us one more reason to hold public officials in contempt.

November 19 2010 at 1:13 PM Report abuse +10 rate up rate down Reply
Rob & Kathy

I keep wondering when the NAACP is going to claim this is racially motivated...

November 19 2010 at 11:50 AM Report abuse +10 rate up rate down Reply
Rob & Kathy

Why wasn't Rangel investigated by Eric Holder? Holder investigated Gov. Christie for much less...

November 19 2010 at 11:48 AM Report abuse +11 rate up rate down Reply

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