Ethics Committee Recommends Censure for Rangel

Rep. Charles Rangel addresses the House Ethics Committee Nov. 18, 2010 on Capitol Hill. AFP/Getty

The House ethics committee is recommending that 20-term Rep. Charles Rangel of New York be censured and pay any unpaid taxes for financial and fundraising misconduct.

The House will likely consider a censure motion after Thanksgiving. If it passes, Rangel would suffer the embarrassment of standing before his colleagues and receiving an oral rebuke by the speaker.

The five Democrats and five Republicans deliberated for several hours behind closed doors Thursday. The vote was 9-1. Earlier, at a sanctions hearing, Rangel apologized for his misconduct but said he was not a crooked politician out for personal gain.

Rangel on Tuesday was found guilty of 11 of the 13 charges of ethics violations against him by a panel of four Democrats and four Republicans.

That finding came after a two-year long investigation into charges against Rangel that relate to his personal finances and his fundraising efforts for a new center at New York City College. The trial marked a rare event: In the two decades since the House's ethics procedures were adopted, only former Rep. James Traficant (D-Ohio) faced a similar trial. He was expelled from Congress after being convicted of 10 felony counts.

In a statement Thursday afternoon, Rangel apologized for "the embarrassment I have brought upon this body that I love dearly, and to the Members of Congress, and to my family and constituents."

"There has never been any corruption or personal gain in my actions as the Committee's chief counsel noted," he said. "Neither has there been any intent on my part to violate the House rules. My actions may have been sloppy, or even stupid, but never corrupt."

"There is no excuse for my acts of omission and failures to abide by the rules of Congress," Rangel continued. "I have made many mistakes that I will forever regret, and I apologize for them."

A censure or a reprimand is a legislative procedure where the full House, by majority vote on a simple resolution, expresses a formal disapproval of the conduct of a member, according to the Congressional Research Service.

In a statement before the committee earlier Thursday, Rangel admitted to "irresponsible behavior" but was adamant that he was not corrupt.

Rangel asked the committee to discount allegations that he is "a crook" and "corrupt," arguing that "in all of this there was no request or suggestion...of corruption."

He said he was not trying to retry the case, only asking the committee to be fair.

Rangel spoke calmly without notes as he faced the committee. He repeatedly denied he was corrupt or crooked, sparking a clash with Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas.

McCaul questioned whether Rangel's conduct was, in fact, corrupt.

He noted that Rangel targeted donors for a college center named after him, people who had legislative issues that Rangel could influence in the Ways and Means Committee.

Rangel, McCaul added, didn't pay taxes on his Dominican Republic villa for 17 years.

"Failure to pay taxes for 17 years. What is that?" McCaul asked. He noted that former Rep. James Traficant, who was expelled after a felony conviction, didn't pay taxes for just two years.

Rangel argued, "City College (of New York) came to me to use my name. I was not trying to criminally hide anything from the IRS and Congress."

He said he didn't know the landlord of his New York apartment building placed him on a special handling list, when Rangel set up a campaign office in a subsidized unit designated for residential use.

Before Chisam commenced his remarks, Rep. Jo Bonner, R-Ala., told committee colleagues that Rangel needed only to "look in the mirror to know who to blame" for his predicament.

Chisam said Rangel "brought discredit" upon the House and that his actions "served to undermine public confidence in this institution."

Rangel also brought in Rep. John Lewis, the Georgia Democrat, to give a testimonial for the congressman to the panel. Lewis called his colleague "a good and decent man" and said he had worked tirelessly to advance civil rights.

Rangel Admits "Irresponsible Behavior" But Denies Corruption

The hearing to consider the charges against Rangel began Monday, but Rangel walked out of the proceedings in protest because he has been unable to acquire legal representation.

Earlier Thursday, ethics committee's chief counsel recommended that Rangel be censured despite the congressman's request for "a drop of fairness and mercy."
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