The day after Rep. Charlie Rangel stormed out of the meeting of a panel of the House Ethics Committee deliberating on his alleged ethics violations, the same panel found Rangel guilty of multiple breaches of House ethics rules.
The trial took place after lawyers working for Rangel and the committee failed to agree to a plea deal that would have allowed Rangel to admit to some wrongdoing in exchange for avoiding an embarrassing trial. Rangel had been accused of 13 ethics violations, including failure to report rental income from vacation property in the Dominican Republic and more than $600,000 in assets on his congressional financial disclosure statements.
The decision by the House Ethics panel came after Rangel, apparently representing himself, claimed poverty for his inability to retain counsel. Rangel had attempted to pay his lawyers through one of his leadership PACs, yet another violation of House rules. Rangel demanded a continuance of the proceedings and was denied, whereupon the Congressman walked out of the hearings.
The swift decision to find Rangel guilty seems to be motivated by a desire to get the thing over with in order to avoid further embarrassment.
The question now is what will the House do about Charlie Rangel? The full Ethics Committee will now convene and make a recommendation for the full House to consider. There are a number of penalties attached to the sort of ethics violations that Rangel has been found guilty of, up to and including expulsion from the House. Ironically, Rangel’s predecessor, Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, was expelled from the House of Representatives for breach of ethics. Rangel defeated Powell in the primaries in 1970 when he tried to make a comeback and has represented his Harlem district ever since.
Even if Rangel’s punishment is one less than expulsion-censure, for example-for all practical purposes, Rangel’s political career is over. Rangel is now in his 80s, and it may well be prudent for him to resign his seat rather than try to remain with an ethics conviction hanging over him.
Charlie Rangel’s fate is an example of how far the mighty can fall. Rangel has been a liberal lion of the House for decades, known as much for his skill at deal-making as much as for his ideology. When the Democrats took the House in 2006, Rangel became chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, the peak of political prestige and power for any member of Congress who does not become Speaker or Majority leader. Until obliged to resign his chairmanship, Rangel had great influence in the writing of tax law.
Now Charlie Rangel’s formerly illustrious political career is drawing to a close, clouded with acts of corruption. It is a sad ending indeed.
Sources: Rangel ethics hearing starts today, Ed Morrissey, Hot Air, November 15th, 2010
Ethics committee finds Rangel guilty, CNN, November 16th, 2010
Charles Rangel to Face House Ethics Trial on 13 Violations, Mark R. Whittington, Associated Content, July 30th, 2010