Wednesday, November 17, 2010

House Ethics Committee Rules on Rangel

Representative Charlie Rangel (D-NY) walked into the House Ethics Committee trial meeting to hear the charges of corruption against him and hoped to successfully argue for a delay. That didn't happen. Much to Rangel's surprise, the committee proceeded.

Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.) pleaded with a House panel Monday to delay his long-awaited public trial on corruption charges, saying he needed time to find a new lawyer, but his request was rejected and the session went ahead without him.

The panel later deemed the charges against Rangel to be "uncontested" and decided to deliberate on them, dispensing with the trial phase of the case.

Rangel even tried to play on the emotions of his colleagues:

The 80-year-old Mr. Rangel, a one-time chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and one of the most powerful black lawmakers in Congress, stunned colleagues at the start of an adjudicatory hearing of the House Committee on the Standards of Official Conduct, announcing he would not offer a defense in the probe into charges he abused his office and violated House rules on financial reporting and fundraising.

"Fifty years of public service are on the line," an emotional Mr. Rangel told the panel of four Democrats and four Republicans on Monday morning before departing. "I truly believe I am not being treated fairly."

The facts are not in Rangel's favor, however. He was informed of the charges against him in June and he has the option of forming a legal defense fund to pay for his lawyers. The man has been in Congress for decades. None of this is news to him. The surprise to him is in his prosecution. Having been in office for so long, he has fallen victim to the arrogant thinking of a long serving elected official.

According to reports, the committee deliberated for 4 hours.

And then the verdict. A House panel on Tuesday found Representative Charles B. Rangel guilty of 11 counts of ethical violations, ruling that his failure to pay taxes, improper solicitation of fund-raising donations and failure to accurately report his personal income had brought dishonor on the House. Two other counts, involving Mr. Rangel’s misuse of House franking privileges, were merged into one.

And Rangel's statement in response to the verdict, according to the same article: “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?” the statement read. “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 committee’s verdict is a stinging rebuke for Mr. Rangel, who has represented Harlem for 40 years and was once one of the most imposing Democrats in Washington.

Denied due process? Hardly. He thought that his stunt of not hiring counsel and then abruptly leaving the room as the committee was about to hear the charges and testimony would allow the process to continue. He thought wrong this time.

Maybe, at the age of 80 and with the abuse of office apparent, it is time for Rangel to seriously think about retirement.

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