Rangel Found Guilty of 11 Ethics Violations
Illegal Gifts, Rent-Stabilized Office, Forgotten Income
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Rep. Charlie Rangel was found guilty of 11 ethical violations by a bipartisan Congressional panel who will now determine what punishment to recommend to the full House for an up or down vote.
A spokesman for the panel said it will reconvene for a public hearing to determine Rangel's punishment, possibly later this week. The eight-member panel needs a majority vote in order to send its recommendations to the full House of Representatives. Currently, Rangel's fellow Democrats hold a majority in that chamber, but come January, Republicans will takeover after their gains in the mid-term elections.
The House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct split 4-4 on one count against Rangel stemming from his efforts to raise money for a school to be named in his honor. The Rangel Center—slated to be built as part of the City University of New York school system—has yet to be built. Therefore, Congress did not receive a benefit from its creation, the panel found.
Rangel represented himself and walked out of the proceedings on Monday after 30 minutes, saying he could not afford his legal fees, which exceed $1 million. His request to delay the proceedings while he raised more money was denied.
Most of the violations against Rangel stem from his efforts to raise money for the Rangel Center, but also include his failure to pay taxes on income from rental property he owns in the Dominican Republican, and his use of a rent-stabilized apartment as a campaign office.
Here's a breakdown of the violations against Rangel:
Count 1: Rangel was found guilty of seeking donations for the Rangel Center from people with business before his committee. He was chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, which writes the nation's tax code.
Count 2: Rangel was found guilty of seeking donations from people with business before Congress. Rangel, as dean of the New York delegation and one of the most senior members of Congress, was thought to be one of Washington's most influential members.
Count 3: The committee split 4-4 on whether Rangel improperly received a benefit by the creation of The Rangel Center. It has yet to open, but was expected to provide him with an office and space to house his archives. Overall, the committee alleged that those perks would allow "him to perpetuate his legacy."
Count 4 and 5: The Committee combined two accusations of improperly using Congressional mailing benefits in order to solicit contributions for The Rangel Center. (Count 4 deals with using Congressional mail privileges for the purpose of soliciting money. Count 5 deals with using the mail system for any non-governmental purposes.)
Count 6: Rangel was found guilty of conducting unofficial business on Congressional property. The solicitations for money for The Rangel Center were drafted and sent from Rangel's Congressional offices.
Count 7: Rangel was found guilty of using his Congressional staff, and Congressional resources to solicit donations for The Rangel Center. Those resources and personnel are only supposed to be used for work directly related to his work as a member of congress.
Count 8: In soliciting contributions for The Rangel Center, the Congressman sent letters using official Congressional stationary. Congress has very specific rules about what words can, and cannot, be used by a Congress member on unofficial business. ("Congress of the United States" and "House of Representatives," were words used on the letterhead on letters Rangel sent out.)
Count 9: Rangel was found guilty of not disclosing fully or accurately his assets on financial disclosure forms. The ethical guideline for Congress members requires them to file full and complete documentation about their assets.
Count 10: Rangel was found guilty of unfairly benefiting by having a rent-stabilized apartment as a campaign office. The chief counsel for the committee said Rangel had staffers show up to work at the apartment. It was never used as a place of residence, violating the building's certificate of occupancy.
Count 11: Rangel was found guilty of not reporting income he earned from rental property he owns in the Dominican Republic. In earlier statements, Rangel cited the fact that he does not speak Spanish as one of the reasons he failed to properly document transactions relating to the property.
Listen to Azi talk to WNYC's Richard Hake about the ethics charges.