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Sunday, July 14, 2024 | Back issues
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Ethics Committee Votes to|Censure Rep. Charlie Rangel

WASHINGTON (CN) - The House ethics committee recommended that Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., be censured for violating 11 House rules, including failing to report rental income on federal tax returns and using a rent-stabilized residential apartment as a campaign office for more than 10 years. The punishment is the most severe the House can impose short of expulsion.

"I apologize for any embarrassment I've caused you individually or collectively as a member of the greatest institution in the country and the world," Rangel told the committee.

The committee voted 9-1 in favor of censure. The matter now goes to the full House, which will vote on whether to apply censure after its Thanksgiving recess. The committee did not identify which member cast the dissenting vote.

If the House approves censure, Rangel will stand before his colleagues while Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., delivers a verbal rebuke. The last time a representative received censure was in 1983.

The committee's chief counsel, Blake Chisam, recommended censure before the committee went into closed session on Thursday. Chisam said that while Rangel's individual actions may warrant only letters of reprimand, Rangel "demonstrated a lack of attention and carelessness over a broad range of issues over a lengthy period of time."

"His accumulations of actions ... brought discredit to the House," Chisam said.

Chisam also cited Rangel's powerful position as chairman of the House Ways and Means committee during periods of misconduct. Rangel stepped down as committee chair in March.

On Monday, the subcommittee found Rangel guilty of violating 11 of 13 counts of House rules, folding two violations into one. They said the 20-term congressman violated solicitation, gift and credibility rules by using congressional letterhead to solicit donations for the Rangel Center, using a rent-stabilized apartment designated "for living purposes only" as a campaign office for more than a decade, failing to report rental income from a beach villa in the Dominican Republic on federal tax returns, and failing to accurately report income on annual disclosure forms.

Rangel walked out of his ethics hearing on Monday, claiming he had been denied his right to counsel because he could not afford to pay a lawyer and the committee denied his the opportunity to set up a legal defense fund. The trial continued without him.

During Monday's hearing, in response to questioning by Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., on whether Rangel was guilty of corruption, Chisam said he found no evidence of corruption in Rangel's behavior and that the representative's misconduct was largely attributable to "sloppy" accounting practices.

Rangel quoted Chisam's comments on Thursday, asking that the committee include in their report that he is not corrupt and never committed actions "with the intention of bringing any disgrace on the House or enriching myself personally."

"Censure is extreme," Butterfield said on Thursday, stating that the "law of the case establishes no corruption."

Rangel also argued that the committee should take his 40 years of service and his military service into account.

"His distinguished military service is not up for debate, nor is it a relevant part of this deliberation," said committee ranking member Rep. Jo Bonner, R-Ala.

Bonner said Rangel could not blame the committee, his staff or the press for the outcome of the hearings. "Mr. Rangel should only look into the mirror when he wants to know who to blame," Bonner said.

The hearings marked the end of a 21-month investigation into Rangel's alleged misconduct, during which the committee interviewed close to 50 witnesses and sifted through nearly 28,000 pages of documents.

Rangel has represented New York's Harlem district for 40 years and was elected on Nov. 2 to serve a 21st term.

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