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Is Rangel Ready to Cop a Plea?

July 28, 2010

Talk has been swirling that Congressman Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., former chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, has been negotiating the equivalent of a plea bargain with his congressional colleagues to avoid the trial he will soon face.

The House ethics committee is supposed to publicly specify the charges against the longtime Harlem congressman at a preliminary hearing on Thursday before his September trial (see Rangel to Be Tried on Ethics Charges). That puts additional pressure on Rangel to try to settle the charges before they go to trial. The last thing Democrats want is a high-profile ethics trial only a couple of months before the November elections.

So far, Rangel has insisted on his innocence, and indeed some of the allegations that have been publicly aired against him don’t sound terribly serious. However, as Rangel has acknowledged, lawmakers are supposed to be held to a high standard. And when the head of a congressional tax-writing committee needs to hire a forensic accounting firm to figure out how much he owes on taxes on previously undeclared rental income, he’s got a problem. Or at least our tax laws do.

More than a few of Rangel’s colleagues are hoping he will cut a deal and thereby avoid what promises to be an embarrassing trial. On the other hand, there are no doubt many of his rivals who would relish seeing him in the dock.

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