Panel Details Allegations Against Rangel
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
And I'm Michele Norris. Today, a House ethics committee met in a rare open session. It did so to read allegations against longtime Congress Charles Rangel. The New York Democrat did not attend the hearing but released a statement decrying the process.
Rangel's lawyers are working behind the scenes trying to broker a deal between their client and the ethics committee, one that would stop the public hearings.
NPR's Andrea Seabrook reports.
ANDREA SEABROOK: The panel that investigated Rangel returned a statement of alleged violations. There are 13 charges against him. Congressman Gene Green, a Democrat from Texas, chaired the investigation. He said the charges fall into four categories:
Representative GENE GREEN (Democrat, Texas): One, solicitations and donations to the Rangel Center for Public Service at the City College, New York.
SEABROOK: Rangel is alleged to have used his staff, his congressional letterhead, his House office and his postal privileges to ask wealthy donors and foundations to fund a new academic center to be named for him.
Rep. GREEN: Two, errors and omissions on Representative Rangel's financial disclosure statements.
SEABROOK: Rangel did not report several bank accounts he had or the income from a rental property.
Rep. GREEN: Three, use of rent-subsidized residential apartment by respondent's campaign committees.
SEABROOK: Rangel's landlord allowed him to use rent-stabilized apartments in his residential complex in Harlem, including one used for his campaign office. The investigative committee alleges that that constitutes an illegal gift besides a possible violation of New York City Law.
Rep. GREEN: And four, failure to report and pay taxes on a rental income on respondent's Punta Cana beach villa.
SEABROOK: Rangel owns a resort home in the Dominican Republic that he did not report on financial disclosure forms or to the IRS. He therefore didn't pay taxes on the vacation home, either, and until this spring, Rangel was the chairman of the House committee that writes tax law. He has since updated his disclosure forms and paid the back taxes.
Rangel had the option of making a statement to the committee today. Instead, he submitted a 32-page response, calling the case against him, quote, "deeply flawed in its factual premises and legal theories." Rangel has said from the beginning of the investigation, 21 months ago, that he may have made mistakes, but he never knowingly broke the rules.
Today, Texas Republican Michael McCaul said that's not the point.
Representative MICHAEL McCAUL (Republican, Texas): In the mind of the American people, Congress has become completely self-serving and so tone deaf its members somehow feel the rules just don't apply to them. We must regain the people's trust.
SEABROOK: The chairwoman of the ethics committee, California Democrat Zoe Lofgren, said that's been the goal from the start: to rebuild and earn the trust of the public.
Representative ZOE LOFGREN (Democrat, California): To do so, we have, to date, in every case, acted unanimously, even though we all know we live in an intensely partisan environment and even though our committee is the only one in Congress that is evenly divided with five Democrats and five Republicans.
SEABROOK: Still, there's a chance that the public hearings might not go forward. Rangel's lawyers are working on a deal with the committee, but it would require Rangel to admit to at least some of the charges, and then a majority of the ethics committee would have to vote to stop the trial phase. Congressman McCaul signaled that he believes the time for a deal has passed.
Rep. McCAUL: Let me be clear that Mr. Rangel, under these rules, was given opportunities to negotiate a settlement during the investigation phase. We are now in the trial phase, and the American people deserve to hear the truth in this case and the charges against him.
SEABROOK: The adjudicatory subcommittee is now looking over the charges and the evidence supporting them. Within days, it is expected to announce when the next open hearing will be if Rangel doesn't settle with the committee first.
Andrea Seabrook, NPR News, The Capitol.
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