Rangel Found Guilty Of Ethics Violations
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A special panel of the U.S. House has convicted Congressman Charles Rangel on 11 ethics charges. The veteran New York Democrat and former chairman of the Ways and Means Committee was absent from the hearing room when the verdict came in today.
NPR's Peter Overby reports.
PETER OVERBY: Ethics Committee Chair Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat, read the verdict.
Representative ZOE LOFGREN (Chairman, Ethics Committee): ...for government service relating to Lenox Terrace, the committee found a conviction by clear and convincing evidence. Count 11, conduct in violation of the code of ethics...
OVERBY: Rangel's wrongdoing involved leasing rent-controlled apartments in New York, failing to report financial assets, underreporting his taxable income, and fundraising for a nonprofit organization by hitting up wealthy people who had business before his Ways and Means Committee.
The decision came from an ethics subcommittee, which now sends it to the full, 10-member ethics committee, which will recommend a sanction against Rangel. That recommendation could range from a mere rebuke to expulsion from the chamber. And it will go to the House floor for a vote. Today, after the reading of the verdict, Republican committee member Michael McCaul of Texas said he hopes the resolution of this case will begin a new era in Congress.
Representative MICHAEL McCAUL (Republican, Texas): An era of transparency and accountability, a new era of ethics that will restore the credibility of this House, the people's House.
OVERBY: That may suggest more unity than the committee has really had. Partisan spats marked the two-year probe. And today, the subcommittee did not convict Rangel on one count. The vote on that count - secret like the others - was a four-four tie, which suggests a party divide.
But suddenly, the rest of this slow-moving case is on a fast track. Committee leaders have said they want it finished before this Congress adjourns. And that was bad news for Rangel.
Starting yesterday, the subcommittee accepted the evidence from their counsel, assessed it and ruled that it proves all but one of the allegations. All of that went down without Rangel in the room, because he had walked out yesterday morning saying he had spent $2 million on lawyers and couldn't afford one anymore.
Some good government advocates around Washington praised the verdict today. But not Bob Edgar, the head of Common Cause and a former congressman himself.
Mr. BOB EDGAR (Former Democratic Congressman, Pennsylvania; President and CEO, Common Cause): Congress can't watchdog itself.
OVERBY: Edgar says the Rangel investigation was managed badly.
Mr. EDGAR: The information on Congressman Rangel was available several years ago. They put hundreds of hours into the investigation. A year ago, they could have had the trial, and they didn't.
OVERBY: This afternoon, some reporters caught up with Rangel in one of the Capitol's basement hallways. This audio comes from a blog about the Congressional Black Caucus called crewof42.com.
Unidentified Woman: Mr. Rangel, do you have any reaction to the committee's decision?
Representative CHARLIE RANGEL (Democrat, New York): No. I really haven't (unintelligible).
Unidentified Woman: Will you come out to talk to us afterwards?
Rep. RANGEL: I don't think so.
Unidentified Woman: Are you hoping for just a reprimand?
Rep. RANGEL: I don't know.
OVERBY: In a written statement, Rangel reiterated his defense that the violations resulted from sloppy and careless recordkeeping and were not criminal or corrupt. But the subcommittee says sloppy and careless isn't the legal threshold.
The final account against Rangel says he did not act in a way that reflects creditably on the House. And that, the ethics panel said, was proven by his failure to get good professional advice in his financial and charitable affairs.
Peter Overby, NPR News, Washington.
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