- The Washington Times - Monday, November 15, 2010

Saying he had been denied the right to counsel, Rep. Charles B. Rangel slammed a House ethics hearing into charges he violated more than a dozen House rules and said he would not participate in the panel’s deliberations.

After a brief break Monday morning, the House Committee on the Standards of Official Conduct rejected a motion to grant another delay in the case and opened a hearing into the evidence against the veteran New York Democrat. Mr. Rangel did not return as the hearing proceeded.

Barely ten minutes into the hearing, Mr. Rangel, sitting by himself, launched into a lengthy diatribe against the process and said he had not been given the time and lacked the money to hire an effective legal team to refute the charges.

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

Mr. Rangel parted ways with his previous legal team abruptly a month ago. Several committee members criticized the law firm of Zuckerman Spaeder for pulling out with the case coming to a head.

The ethics panel has been investigating 13 charges that the 80-year-old Mr. Rangel, recently re-elected to his 21st term representing his Harlem district, abused his office and engaged in financial and fund-raising activities that violated House rules. The onetime chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, one of the most powerful black lawmakers in the country, said at Monday’s hearing he has not been able to raise the funds to hire new counsel. He said he had been told the legal bills for the ethics trial alone could reach $1 million.

He also complained that the House panel had accelerated the hearing in order to conclude by the time the current Congress is disbanded at the end of the year. He told the panel he had not had time to review the evidence compiled by committee investigators or speak to witnesses cited in the pending charges.

In rejecting a motion to postpone the hearing, committee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren, California Democrat, noted that the panel had advised Mr. Rangel of all the evidence and allegations against him in mid-June, and had even advised him on ways to raise funds to pay for new legal representation.

Before adjourning, Ms. Lofgren noted that it was Mr. Rangel himself who dismissed his legal team just a month ago, even as the ethics case was reaching a climax.

In a presentation to the committee, Blake Chisam, chief counsel and staff director for the ethics panel, said Mr. Rangel has not challenged any of the evidence already in the record and the panel had enough evidence before them to vote immediately.

“The facts are the facts,” Mr. Chisam said.

The case, which has dragged on for more than two years, has proven an embarrassment to congressional Democrats who had promised to clean up corruption on Capitol Hill when they took power four years ago. A second ethics case against another prominent black House Democrat, Rep. Maxine Waters, is set for Nov. 29.

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