A House investigative committee on Thursday charged New York Rep. Charles Rangel with multiple ethics violations, a blow to the former Ways and Means chairman and an election-year headache for Democrats.
The committee did not specify the charges against the Democrat, who has served in the House for some 40 years and is fourth in House seniority.
The announcement from a four-member panel of the House Ethics Committee sends the case to a House trial, where a separate eight-member panel of Republicans and Democrats will decide whether the violations can be proved by clear and convincing evidence.
The timing of the announcement ensures that it will stretch into the fall campaign, and Republicans are certain to make it an issue as they try to capture majority control of the House. Speaker Nancy Pelosi had once promised to "drain the swamp" of ethical misdeeds by lawmakers in arguing that Democrats should be in charge.
Rangel led the tax-writing Ways and Means panel until he stepped aside in March after the ethics committee criticized him in a separate case — finding that he should have known corporate money was paying for his trips to two Caribbean conferences.
In the current case, the committee and Rangel's attorney tried unsuccessfully to negotiate a settlement, according to sources who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private discussions. A settlement would have required Rangel to agree that he violated ethics rules.
The investigation of Rangel has focused on:
- His use of official stationery to raise money for the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at City College of New York.
- Whether he had the Ways and Means Committee consider legislation that would benefit donors to the Rangel Center at the same time the congressman solicited donations or pledges.
- A tax shelter for an oil drilling company, Nabors Industries, which has a chief executive who donated money to the center while Rangel's committee considered the loophole legislation.
- The use of four rent-controlled apartment units in New York City, when the city's rent stabilization program is supposed to apply to one's primary residence. This raises the question of how all the units could be primary residences. One was a campaign office, raising the separate question of whether the rent break was an improper gift.
- Whether Rangel, as required, publicly reported information on the financing and rental of his ownership interest in a unit within the Punta Cana Yacht Club in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. Rangel also had to pay back taxes on the rental income.
- Whether he intentionally failed to report hundreds of thousands of dollars or more in assets. The amended disclosure reports added a credit union IRA, mutual fund accounts and stock.
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