Charlie Rangel: C’mon, No Bribes, No Sex, No Personal Gain

November 29, 2010

(ChattahBox Political News)—Democratic Congressman Charlie Rangel (NY) is making a last-ditch effort to avoid becoming publicly censured by his colleagues for violations of 11 ethic charges, covering various tax evasion and fundraising improprieties. The 40-year House veteran is making the case that his actions warrant a lesser reprimand. And his staff has created a visual aid to convince House members that the serious rebuke of a censure has only been meted out in the past in cases of severe misconduct, such as bribery, personal gain and and sexual escapades. Rangel was not charged, nor found guilty of such serious transgressions. And the panel’s lawyer found that Rangel’s actions did not rise to the level of corruption. The 80-year-old Congressman plans to make his case on the House floor, in the hopes of persuading his colleagues to hold a vote to downgrade his punishment.

The last House members to become censured, Reps. Gerry E. Studds, (D-MA), and Daniel Crane, (R-IL) were censured for sexual misconduct with House pages. Rangel contends his problems with paying his taxes and fundraising errors don’t fall into the same class.

The New York Times reports that Rangel is circulating a 10-point flow chart pointing to all of the reasons why his behavior warrants a reprimand.

“Mr. Rangel, 80, who may face censure in front of the full House as early as this week, is arguing that the punishment — a move short of expulsion — is reserved for violations more grave than those he committed. To make that case, his staff has prepared a 10-point chart to distribute to other members of Congress, along with a history of punishments meted out before.”

“Point 4 on the chart notes that Mr. Rangel, a Democrat who has represented Harlem for four decades, “did not take bribes,” and Point 8 says his violations did not involve personal financial gain. Point 5 says his violations “did not involve sexual misconduct.”

“The chart also cites cases in which representatives were reprimanded for violations that, it says, were more serious than those committed by Mr. Rangel.”

The punishment of censure has, in fact, been infrequently used, according to The Politico.

“Overall, the House has used censure only 22 times, with most of the cases coming in the 19th century, according to a Congressional Research Service report. Censured behavior included insults to the speaker of the House, bribery, accepting money in return for appointments to military academies and assaulting another member.”

“After the formal establishment of the ethics committee, only four members have been censured, including Crane and Studds. Rep. Charles Diggs (D-Mich.) was censured in 1979 after his criminal conviction on 29 counts of mail fraud and filing false payroll forms. And Rep. Charles Wilson (D-Calif.) was censured in 1980 as part of the “Koreagate” scandal. Wilson was found guilty of accepting cash gifts from a foreign government and converting his campaign funds to personal use, as well as lying to the ethics committee.”

Rangel plans to seek permission from Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), chairwoman of the House Ethics panel, to address the House before a vote is held on his rebuke, which is expected sometime this week.

Rangel does seem to have a case here. Before his ethics trial, Rangel worked out a plea deal with the committee, wherein he admitted to some charges in exchange for a reprimand. But the agreement was ultimately rejected by the panel in favor of a trial.


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