A two-year investigation into possible ethics violations by U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel, D-NY, led today to the beginning of a trial before an eight-member, bipartisan House subcommittee. Rangel's first move was to request a postponement.
You tell me all the things I can do, but you do not give me the time to do them, said Rangel, 80. I need time to get counsel and that is being denied me.
Rangel severed ties with his attorneys in September. The panel discussed the request for postponement in closed session, denied the request and proceeded with the trial, which is expected to last about a week.
When his request was denied, Rangel issued a statement that he would not longer be attending the trial. A lawyer, although he has not practiced in years, Rangel had been expected to defend himself.
Rangel has served 40 years in the House of Representatives. He is noted for championing economic development programs for Harlem. He is a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus and is the first black to served as chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee.
Rangel stepped down from his chairmanship earlier this year because of the allegations against him. Still, though under a cloud, he easily won re-election to his seat this month.
His trial is being conducted by an adjucatory subcommittee of the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, presided over by Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-CA.
Rangel sought to cut a deal with Congressional investigators, offering to accept some of the charges against him. But Republican members refused the deal, which led to a formalization of the charges against him in a Statement of Alleged Violation.
Rangel appealed the statement and that triggered the trial.
According to the Statement of Alleged Violation, while chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Rangel solicited donations for the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Policy at City College of New York from corporations that could benefit from the work of his committee - a violation of House ethics rules.
He used official Congressional letterhead in making the solicitations and the Congressional franking privilege to mail the solicitations - both involving several possible ethics violations, the House said.
Rangel is also being charged with failing to disclose about $600,000 of income from several rental properties over a number of years; accepting the gift of a rent-stabilized apartment to use as a campaign headquarters; failure to pay federal taxes on a property he owns in the Dominican Republic; and accepting other gifts, directly and indirectly, from companies his committee could possibly help, according to the allegations.
If the committee finds that Rangel has violated House ethics rules in all or some of the alleged incidents, it could recommend punishment in the form of a reprimand, or a suspension or an expulsion from Congress.
Whatever the punishment recommended by the panel, the full House would have to vote to approve it before it could go into effect.
When the trial re-commenced, the subcommittee's ranking member, Rep. Michael McCaul, R-TX, began probing the alleged failures to disclose income.
Democrats, who took a drubbing in House mid-term elections earlier this month and loss control of the chamber, are now facing the twin embarrassments of the Rangel ethics trial, followed by the ethics trial of Rep. Maxine Waters, D-CA, another prominent black Democrat, which begins on Nov. 29.
Waters allegedly helped a bank with which she has ties secure federal bailout funds.