Congressman Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., faces censure from his colleagues in the House for ethical violations involving taxes, unreported income and other matters.
The House ethics panel voted 9-1 on Thursday to censure the 20-term Harlem Congressman, who was reelected by an 80 percent margin earlier this month. The 80-year-old lawmaker pleaded with his colleagues for leniency and understanding, but he is likely to become the first lawmaker in three decades to face censure. The panel’s recommendation will now go to the full House for a vote.
Rangel, a former chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, was found guilty Tuesday of 11 of the 13 ethics violations with which he had been charged. They included failing to report rental income on a vacation villa he owned in the Dominican Republic and not paying taxes on the income until media reports surfaced. He had also been accused of using his staff and congressional stationery to raise funds for a City University of New York building named in his honor, and using four rent-stabilized apartments in Harlem for his home and political offices at below-market rates.
He walked out of a hearing Monday protesting that he could not afford his attorney and needed time to find another lawyer and set up a legal defense fund (see Rangel Storms Out of Ethics Hearing). He claimed his previous attorney had cost him $2 million, and he would need another $1 million to hire another. He had been offered free legal representation, but was unable to accept because of the congressional gifts ban.
At the hearing Thursday, Rangel offered an apology and asked for leniency.
“The fact that for 17 years taxes were paid to the Dominican Republic has nothing to do with the facts in this case as it relates to my conduct, but I would believe that the accountant that testified would have shared with you how mistakes were made that I assume responsibility for, because whether it’s a lawyer, a CPA, or accountant, I signed the paper,” he said. “But it would really help, and I don’t think it’s out of line if the committee didn’t say it before, that you could put in that report no matter what you agreed the sanctions should be, that your member was not corrupt and did not seek and did not gain anything personally for the bad conduct that I’ve had. That’s all I’ve ever asked when I referred the whole thing to this committee. All I asked was that you make a point of investigating everything. I volunteered to have a forensic accountant for 20 years to look over taxes, to look over all of the things that should have been done and corrected all of them. But that is not an example that I would want to set for other members of Congress.”
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