Rangel to make stand against censure by House
Rep. Charles Rangel is ready to make a last stand to salvage his reputation and tell the House that a censure should be reserved for crooked politicians.
He will argue that he's not one of them.
The 80-year-old Democrat from New York's Harlem neighborhood wants his punishment for ethics violations downgraded to a reprimand, according to congressional and nongovernment sources who are in touch with Rangel.
Rangel will ask the House ethics committee chairman, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), for time to plead his case on the floor of the House, where he has served for 40 years, including a stint as chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee.
The ethics committee voted 9-1 on Nov. 18 that Rangel should be censured for committing 11 counts of fundraising and financial misdeeds that violated House rules.
There is precedent for Rangel's argument that censure - the most severe punishment short of expulsion - is too harsh in his case. Rangel plans to argue that censure has been imposed for violations including bribery, accepting improper gifts, personal use of campaign funds and sexual misconduct; none is present in his case.
The ethics committee, in explaining its recommendation, agreed in a report that the discipline usually is reserved for lawmakers who enrich themselves. In Rangel's case, the committee said, its decision was based on "the cumulative nature of the violations and not any direct personal financial gain." The committee's chief counsel, Blake Chisam, responding to a question from a committee member, told Rangel's ethics trial that he saw no evidence of corruption.
The House will take up Rangel's discipline in the postelection session that resumes Monday, but no date has been set for a decision on his punishment.
A censure requires the disciplined member to appear at the front of the chamber - called the "well" - and receive an oral rebuke from the speaker that includes a reading of the resolution.
A reprimand is simply a vote of disapproval. It can be a separate resolution or a vote to adopt the ethics committee's findings. The punished lawmaker is not required to stand in the well.
Rangel was found to have improperly used official resources - congressional letterheads and staff - to raise funds from businesses and foundations for a center named after him at the City College of New York.
Some of the donors, the committee found, were businesses and foundations with issues before the House Ways and Means Committee. The contributions left the impression that the money was to influence legislation, although Rangel was not charged with taking any action on behalf of donors.
He also was found guilty of filing a decade's worth of misleading annual financial disclosure forms that failed to list hundreds of thousands of dollars in assets, and failure to pay taxes for 17 years on a rental unit in the Dominican Republic - an embarrassment for someone who presided over tax legislation.