WASHINGTON (CN) – Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., will stand trial in Congress to face 13 counts of ethics violations, including using his position to solicit donations for a center bearing his name at the City College of New York.
“The allegations presented to us are nothing less than serious,” said Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, ranking member of the four-person investigatory subcommittee that detailed the alleged violations before the House Ethics Committee Thursday.
Rangel, a 40-year veteran of the House, was accused of using congressional letterhead to solicit funds for the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at the City College of New York, 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.
The alleged activities violate numerous House rules, including solicitation, gift and credibility rules.
The allegations capped off a 21-month long investigation, which Rangel himself requested in 2008 when questions about his conduct surfaced.
“I think it’s safe to say no one enjoyed this assignment,” investigative subcommittee Chair Rep. Gene Green said. “No one wants to investigate their peers.”
Rep. Jo Bonner, R-Ala., ranking member of investigative subcommittee, spoke highly of Rangel’s military service and called him one of the most “powerful” and “well-liked” members of Congress, but said, “We’re here to present a summary of a different story altogether.”
Green said the subcommittee sifted through 28,000 pages of documents, filed 160 formal request for documents, held 60 meetings, conducted 50 depositions, and met with Rangel three times throughout the course of the investigation. All 13 counts were adopted by a majority vote in the subcommittee, Green said.
The case is now in the hands of the eight-member adjudicatory subcommittee, which will host a public hearing to verify the investigative committee’s findings.
“We are neither accusers nor are we defenders of our colleague,” said Adjudicatory Subcommittee Chair Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif. “Our job is to act impartially as finders of fact and law.”
The hearing, which could start in September after Congress returns from a lengthy break, will pit ethics committee staff against Rangel’s counsel over the allegations, and may include witnesses and presentation of evidence.
At the conclusion of the hearing, members of the adjudicatory subcommittee will vote on whether each of the 13 counts were verified. The entire ethics committee would then proceed with possible sanctions.
Thursday’s “organizational meeting” was held after settlement negotiations, which had been going on for a number of days and into Thursday morning, appeared to have fallen through.
“Rangel was given opportunities to negotiate during the investigation phase,” McCaul said. “We are now in the trial phase.”
Rangel did not appear at the meeting, but issued a statement in response to the allegations.
The statement, signed by Rangel’s attorney, said the statement of alleged violations was “deeply flawed in its factual premises and legal theories, not only with regard to CCNY, but also as to the other claims.”
“For forty years,” the statement read, “Congressman Rangel has faithfully served the people of New York’s Fifteenth District. He has at all times acted in his constituents’ best interests.”
The statement accused the ethics committee of turning an inquiry into his conduct “into an attack on his integrity.”
“Credibility is exactly what’s at stake here,” McCaul said.
McCaul said Rangel’s alleged conduct called into question the credibility of the House at a time when only 11 percent of the public claimed to have a positive view of the institution.
Rangel “may have broken the rules of the House and brought discredit to this body,” Bonner said. “This is a sad day where no one, regardless of their partisan stripes, should rejoice.”
The last time the House ethics committee hosted a public trial was in 2002 in the case of Rep. James Traficant, an Ohio Democrat who was convicted of multiple felonies, expelled from Congress, and served a six-year jail sentence.
When the investigatory subcommittee first stated last week that it had “substantial reason to believe” that Rangel had committed ethics violations, Rangel said he was “pleased that, at long last, sunshine will pierce the cloud of serious allegations that have been raised against me in the media.” But Thursday morning before the hearing, Rangel changed his tone, saying to reporters outside his office, “Sixty years ago, I survived a Chinese attack in North Korea and have said that I haven’t had a bad day since. But after today, I may have to revise that statement.”
Rangel, who is 80, has served in Congress since 1971.