Rangel found guilty; ethics panel weighs punishment
WASHINGTON - A congressional ethics panel found veteran Rep. Charles Rangel guilty Tuesday on 11 counts of violating rules of the House of Representatives and is now weighing how to punish the Manhattan Democrat.
An eight-member bipartisan panel of the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct announced its findings against Rangel after deliberating for hours behind closed doors following a rare trial.
"We have tried to act with fairness, led only by the fact of law," said Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), the full committee chairwoman. "And I believe we have accomplished that mission."
Rangel, 80, was accused of failing to report hundreds of thousands of dollars in income and assets, improper use of several rent-controlled apartments in his Harlem district, questionable fundraising for a college center in New York that bears his name and failing to pay taxes on property he owns in the Dominican Republic.
While Rangel, elected to a 21st term earlier this month, could face expulsion from the House or censure, experts say he's likely to receive the mildest form of punishment, a reprimand.
Rangel wasn't present when Lofgren read the ethics panel's findings. He refused to participate in the proceedings after the panel declined his request Monday for a postponement because he didn't have - and couldn't afford - legal representation after already spending $2 million on his defense.
In a statement, Rangel denounced the guilty verdict.
"How can anyone have confidence in the decision of the ethics subcommittee when I was deprived of due-process rights, right to counsel and was not even in the room?" he said. "I can only hope that the full committee will treat me more fairly, and take into account my entire 40 years of service to the Congress before making any decisions on sanctions."
The panel determined that Rangel was guilty on 11 of 13 original charges. Two charges involving violations of postal service laws and House mail privilege statutes were merged, and the panel concluded there was "clear and convincing evidence" that Rangel violated rules.
Panelists split four-to-four on a count of whether there was convincing proof that Rangel broke the House's gift rule.
The findings now go to the full ethics committee to determine punishment. Then the committee will forward its recommendation to the full House.
"The ethics committee is doing its job," said Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.). "It's an unfortunate set of circumstances Rangel is in, but the process has to continue and the chips should fall where they may."