- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 22, 2010

House investigators on Thursday said they will charge senior Rep. Charles B. Rangel with ethics violations, setting the stage for an unpleasant battle that could haunt Democrats as they prepare to face voters in November.

The accusations will be made public next week, when a subcommittee of the House ethics panel meets for the first time to consider the charges. The bipartisan group of eight lawmakers then will determine whether the allegations have been proved.

Mr. Rangel, the longtime top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee who stepped down under pressure in March, has been under investigation by the panel for two years. At issue is a plethora of subjects, including Mr. Rangel’s ownership of several rent-controlled apartments in New York; his failure to report $75,000 in earnings on tax returns; and use of his official position to raise money for the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at City College of New York.

The raspy-voiced Harlem Democrat, a decorated Korean War veteran who has spent nearly 40 years in Congress, has long shrugged off the accusations as being overblown. But he eventually relinquished his powerful post on the tax-writing panel after he was formally admonished for taking a corporate-backed trip to the Caribbean.

“I look forward to airing this thing,” Mr. Rangel told reporters Thursday, insisting the allegations against him have no substance, according to the Associated Press.

“I am pleased that, at long last, sunshine will pierce the cloud of serious allegations that have been raised against me in the media,” he said.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington called on Mr. Rangel to resign.

“Today’s action demonstrates that the notoriously lax ethics committee has found substantial reason to believe that Rep. Rangel has violated federal law, House rules, or both. Now the question is whether Rep. Rangel will resign or endure a public trial that promises to be filled with detailed and undoubtedly embarrassing revelations of wrongdoing,” said Melanie Sloan, executive director of the watchdog organization. “The time clearly has come for him to resign.”

Republicans pounced on the news, taking specific aim at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat.

“Today’s announcement is a sad reminder of Speaker Pelosi’s most glaring broken promise: to ‘drain the swamp’ in Washington. Instead of presiding over ‘the most honest, most open and most ethical’ Congress in history, Washington Democrats have presided over a string of bailouts, job-killing government takeovers and other backroom deals,” said House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican.

Ken Spain, a spokesman for House Republicans’ campaign arm, chimed in: “For over two years, the Charlie Rangel saga dragged on while Speaker Pelosi not only sat idly by, but encouraged her members to vote against an investigation into the deeply troubling matters at hand. It appears that Charlie Rangel will finally be judged by a jury of his peers, but unfortunately for the speaker, the verdict is already out on what she promised would be the ‘most ethical Congress in history.’”

Asked about Mr. Rangel, a Pelosi spokesman said: “The action today would indicate that the independent, bipartisan ethics committee process is moving forward.”

Republicans are hoping to reverse the ethics issue and turn it against Democrats. During the 2006 election season, Mrs. Pelosi charged that former Rep. Tom DeLay, a longtime House Republican leader who resigned under investigation that year, had led the GOP astray.

A spokesman for the Democratic National Committee hit back at suggestions that the Rangel case could hurt Democrats in November, noting that neither party has a monopoly on ethical infractions.

“I’m not sure how far the party of [Sen. David] Vitter, [Sen. John] Ensign and [Gov. Mark] Sanford will get with that line of attack, but more fundamentally the choice this fall will be between Democrats who will continue to move the country forward, keep producing jobs and growing the economy, and Republicans who promise to take us back to the ‘exact same agenda’ that brought the economy to the brink,” DNC spokesman Hari Sevugan said.

The GOP has had several high-profile ethics problems. Mr. Vitter, of Louisiana, years ago admitted to having visited a prostitute. Nevada’s Mr. Ensign is being investigated for money he gave to a former aide with whom he had an affair. Mr. Sanford, the governor of South Carolina, divorced his wife after revealing that he was carrying on with an Argentine mistress, whom he secretly visited while in office.

A Democratic strategist argued that the Rangel case is not as “nefarious” as the fiasco congressional Republicans faced in 2006.

“This isn’t widespread like 2006 where the scandal touched dozens of Republicans, where the scandal had a nefarious and easily identifiable nexus in Jack Abramoff and where the scandal confirmed what people already suspected about Republicans — that they were too cozy with lobbyists,” the strategist said.

A White House spokesman had no comment on Mr. Rangel’s situation Thursday evening.



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