Charlie Rangel’s Circus

  • Rep. Charlie Rangel was found guilty today on 11 out of 12 counts of ethics violations. Originally charged with 13 violations, the eight-person bipartisan commission that heard his case decided to drop the charge of "bringing discredit on the House of Representatives," though the other charges remained.

     

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  • When the 13 initial charges were announced in late July, the Investigative Subcommittee heading the case determined that there was "substantial reason to believe that a violation of the Code of Official Conduct, or of a law, rule, regulation, or other standard of conduct applicable to the performance of official duties or the discharge of official responsibilities by a Member, officer, or employee of the House of Representatives has occurred."

     

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  • On Monday, Rangel walked out of the hearing, claiming that he had not had proper time to raise funds for a legal team after his first legal team had to quit when he could not pay its fees. Rangel employed Zuckerman Spaeder during the two year investigation, paying $1.6 million in fees, yet he had to drop them when they were to bill him an additional $1 million to represent him during the trial.

     

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  • Two of the biggest points against Rangel stem from his multiple households. Officially, his main residence is in Washington, D.C., though he also signed the lease in 1996 for a rent-stabilized apartment in Harlem claiming that is was for his son, Steven. Rep. Rangel already held leases on three apartments in the building- violating local zoning laws in its own right- and supposedly used the fourth for his campaign headquarters. The Congressman also owns a villa in the Dominican Republic and a brownstone townhouse in New York, both of which he rents out. These properties became points of issue when the Ethics Committee said that he never reported over $600,000 in income and assets, much of which came from these two properties.

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  • Another point of contention in the Committee's charges is Rangel's use of his position as the then-chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. He is accused of using Congressional stationary to ask for donations for a City College of New York public policy institute that was going to be named The Rangel Center. Rangel denied that the donors he solicited were being granted any favors in his committee, nor were they targeted because of their political interests.

     

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  • The actions that lead to the charges included Rangel's misfiling of financial disclosure forms, failure to declare more than $600,000 in income and assets, his use of his position in government to raise funds for a library named in his honor, and his use of a rent-stabilized apartment in Harlem for campaign purposes.

     

     

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  • While the damage to Rangel's reputation may be the most lasting result, that is not all: the case now goes to the full House Committee on Ethics to decide on a formal punishment. Experts expect the Congressman to only face a letter of reprimand or censure, both of which are seen as the lighter of the possible punishments, which could theoretically go so far as expulsion from Congress.

     

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  • The Ethics Committee's investigation into Rangel has lasted over two years and heard from nearly 50 witnesses. After the charges were initially filed, Rangel said that he "acted promptly to correct unintentional mistakes" on his tax filings.

    In a televised statement after the initial allegations of impropriety, Rangel said that "As chairman of the Ways and Means committee I am and should be held to a higher standard."

     

     

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