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House Panel to Decide Rangel’s Punishment for Ethics Violations

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Representative Charles Rangel
Representative Charles Rangel told the committee, “All I’m asking for is the time to get counsel.” Photographer: Kevin Dietsch/Pool via Bloomberg

Nov. 17 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. House of Representatives ethics committee is scheduled to decide tomorrow whether to punish Congressman Charles Rangel, a New York Democrat found guilty of 11 counts of violating House rules.

An eight-member subcommittee agreed yesterday that Rangel had violated House rules when he raised money for an academic center named for him at City College of New York, when he filed erroneous financial-disclosure statements and when he used a rent-controlled apartment as a campaign office, among other offenses.

After hearing from committee counsel and from Rangel, if he so desires, the full 10-member panel, which includes the subcommittee members, will vote on a motion to recommend that the House impose punishment. Possible sanctions include a letter of admonition from the panel, a censure or reprimand by the full House, and a fine.

Rangel yesterday renewed his complaints about the way the hearing was conducted. He walked out of the hearing Nov. 15 and boycotted the proceedings after the subcommittee rejected his request for a delay to allow him to hire a new lawyer.

“What does surprise me is how they can say I’ve had due process,” Rangel told a group of reporters. “They just want to conclude it this year and get it out of the way.”

Regarding punishment, he said, “it seems to me my 50 years of public service should be taken into account.”

‘50-Year History’

Representative Barbara Lee, a California Democrat who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus, praised Rangel’s “distinguished, demonstrated 50-year history of service to his constituents” in a statement. “Any decision on punishment should be in line with previous findings of the ethics committee,” she said.

Rangel won a 21st House term Nov. 2 after fending off challenges from five candidates in New York’s Sept. 14 Democratic primary. He received 80 percent of the general election vote in his Harlem-based district -- a tally that he said should quiet any calls for him to leave office, even given the ethics subcommittee’s findings.

“The question of whether I resign was resolved by the people,” he said.

Rangel, 80, was charged with violating 13 rules. The subcommittee deadlocked on a charge that he violated the House gift rule. It also decided to combine two counts accusing him of misusing congressional mailing privileges in sending out fundraising solicitations for the academic center.

The committee’s chief counsel, Blair Chisam, said during the Nov. 15 hearing that he did not believe Rangel “took steps to enrich himself.”

Donations Sought

Eight of the charges involved Rangel’s efforts to raise money to help finance the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at City College. The subcommittee found that he improperly used congressional stationery and staff to seek donations, including from individuals with issues pending before Congress.

The donations “were accepted under circumstances which might be construed by reasonable persons as influencing” Rangel’s performance of governmental duties, according to a report from Chisam.

Rangel solicited donations from Verizon Communications Inc. and American International Group Inc., among other companies, the report said.

The counsel’s report also said Rangel “failed to fully and accurately report numerous items” on his financial-disclosure statements, including rental income and investments.

Rangel used a rent-controlled apartment in Manhattan as a campaign office even though the lease and New York City regulations required that it be a residence, according to the report. The committee called it a “favor” from a landlord who had met with the congressman and his staff and owns buildings in Rangel’s Harlem-based district.

Rangel stepped aside as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee in March after the ethics panel said he broke House rules by accepting corporate-sponsored travel.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jonathan D. Salant in Washington at jsalant@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net.

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