- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 29, 2010

Kicking off what promises to be a politically perilous process, the House ethics committee on Thursday officially lodged 13 different charges against Rep. Charles B. Rangel, including that he used his office to raise more than $8 million for a college public policy center named after him.

Mr. Rangel, New York Democrat, was not present as two of his colleagues sat as prosecutors and another eight sat as a kind of jury, tasked with deciding the fate of the veteran politician, who formerly held the chairmanship of the powerful Ways and Means Committee.

The charges, detailed in a 40-page “Statement of Alleged Violation,” break down into four categories: that he solicited money for the Rangel Center from those doing business before his committee; that he made errors and omissions on his financial disclosure forms; that he was given use of a rent-subsidized apartment for an office; and that he failed to report rental income and and pay federal taxes on it.

“A public office is a public trust. Our task is to determine whether Rep. Rangel’s conduct met that standard,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren, California Democrat, who chairs the committee.

She did not lay out a schedule for how the committee will proceed next, and Thursday’s hearing was held only to receive the charges officially.

The investigators, in their report, said Mr. Rangel repeatedly stonewalled the investigation — despite the fact that he himself had requested the proceedings as a means to clear his name. The investigators did not recommend any penalties, but the committee, if if finds Mr. Rangel violates the code of conduct, could impose sanctions up to expulsion from the House.

Mr. Rangel’s lawyers argued to investigators that the charges against him were not supported by evidence and, in the case of taxes, were beyond the committee’s purview.

But investigators rejected those arguments, saying they had enough evidence to forward the matter for trial and they can stand in judgment of any violation of law.

To the last minute there were reports that Mr. Rangel was trying to strike a deal to avoid a trial, and several members said he had an opportunity to do so.

But the man serving as the top Republican on the judging panel said the time for deal-making has passed.

“We are now in the trial phase. The American people deserve to hear the truth in this case, and the charges against him,” said Rep. Michael McCaul, Texas Republican.

The investigators said they reviewed 28,000 pages of testimony and documents, held five dozen investigative meetings, deposed Mr. Rangel once and met with him two other times, including once at his own request.



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