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House charges Rep. Charles Rangel with ethics violations

A House panel outlines 13 counts against the New York Democratic lawmaker, whose political career spans 40 years.

July 30, 2010|By James Oliphant, Tribune Washington Bureau
  • Charles Rangel speaks to the media as he returns to his office from a vote at the Capitol.
Charles Rangel speaks to the media as he returns to his office from a vote… (Jim Watson / AFP/Getty Images )

Reporting from Washington —

Rep. Charles Rangel of New York was charged Thursday with 13 counts of violating House ethics rules, placing the Democrat's storied, 40-year political career in jeopardy.

A House ethics panel outlined the alleged violations in a meeting that set the stage for a full-blown proceeding that could take place as early as September.

The charges stem from Rangel's alleged use of rent-controlled apartments for campaign purposes, his alleged solicitation of corporate donors for a public-policy center at a New York City college using office letterhead, the alleged failure to disclose $600,000 in income on financial-disclosure statements and the alleged failure to disclose income and pay taxes on a Caribbean rental property.

Until the moment the committee convened Thursday afternoon, talk was filtering through congressional corridors that Rangel's attorneys had struck a deal to avoid the hearing.

But Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, the ranking Republican on the subcommittee that will try Rangel, suggested the time for a settlement had passed, saying Rangel, a Democrat from Harlem, had been given an "opportunity to negotiate a settlement in the investigation phase."

"The American people need to hear the truth," McCaul said.

A settlement could still occur, and reports indicate that the principles of a deal were in place. But it would require the approval of at least one Republican on the Ethics Committee, which may be difficult to secure in the highly charged partisan atmosphere on Capitol Hill.

Rangel did not appear at the hearing.

McCaul said the allegations would represent "multiple violations of House rules and federal statutes." Rangel has not been charged with criminal violations.

Rep. Gene Green (D-Texas), who headed up the panel that investigated Rangel, said there was "substantial reason" to believe the former Ways and Means Committee chairman had violated ethics rules.

Rangel, 80, has represented his New York district since 1971. He's a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus, which has staunchly defended him.

Two Democratic members of the House have called for Rangel to resign. Were he to do so, he'd be out of the Ethics Committee's reach.

joliphant@tribune.com

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