Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) violated congressional ethics rules and federal law in the handling of his personal finances and his fundraising for a university institute, a subcommittee of Rangel's colleagues charged today.
Two members of the House ethics subcommittee, for the first time, laid out their findings from a two-year investigation of Rangel, a 40-year veteran of the House of Representatives.
Reps. Gene Green (D-Texas) and Jo Bonner (R-Ala.) said their four-member subcommittee adopted 13 counts against Rangel, though not all the counts had unanimous support. Some of the 13 counts are general — for example, bringing discredit on the House — while others relate to more specific rules such as the use of official stationery.
The counts confirm months of media reports about what investigators were focusing on. The subcommittee alleges that Rangel failed to pay taxes on rental income from a property he owns in the Dominican Republic, that he improperly accepted a gift when he was allowed to pay reduced rent on New York City apartments, and that he improperly solicited charitable contributions from lobbyists and business executives for a City University of New York institute named for Rangel.
Bonner said the investigative subcommittee had intended to finish its work two years ago. But, he said, additional evidence kept coming to light, and the subcommittee faced delays in getting some documents. The congressional investigation began with a request from Rangel himself, who said in 2008, after several media investigations, that he wanted to clear his name.
Green said the subcommittee met more than 60 times, made 160 formal requests for documents, and reviewed 28,000 pages of documents and testimony. It deposed Rangel once, in December 2009, Green said.
Rangel was not required to attend today’s hearing at which his colleagues described the 13 charges, and he did not go. His legal team, led by Zuckerman Spaeder partner Leslie Kiernan, submitted a 32-page defense (PDF) against the charges. Kiernan also attended the hearing, sitting in the front row.
"The undisputed evidence in the record — assembled by the Investigative Subcommittee over its nearly two-year investigation — is that Congressman Rangel did not dispense any political favors, that he did not intentionally violate any law, rule or regulation, and that he did not misuse his public office for private gain," the defense reads.
The 13 charges will now be considered by a new, 10-member adjudicatory subcommittee. Rangel is expected to have two months to develop a defense. Then, the subcommittee is set to put him on trial, make findings of fact and recommend possible sanctions.
Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), the top Republican on the new subcommittee, said it was time to move beyond a possible settlement with Rangel and to begin “the trial phase.” A former federal prosecutor, McCaul said the credibility of the House is at stake.
“These actions, if proven, would demonstrate that Mr. Rangel violated multiple provisions of the House rules and federal statutes,” McCaul said.
The chair of the new subcommittee, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), pledged nonpartisanship. “Bound as we are by the precedents of the House, our obligation is to act fairly and without bias or partisanship,” she said.
Updated at 3:51 p.m. with Rangel's defense. Updated at 6:08 p.m. to note Kiernan's appearance.