Ethics Committee Lawyer Recommends Censure For Rangel

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An Ethics Committee lawyer recommended Rep. Charles Rangel be censured by his peers, citing violations that “undercut the public’s ability to have faith and trust in this institution.” In a hearing before the committee held two days after an subcommittee found Rangel guilty of 11 ethics violations, Blake Chisam, who is serving as the case’s prosecutor, argued that Rangel’s actions, which included improper use of a rent-stabilized apartment, failing to pay taxes on a Caribbean villa and improper fund-raising, “brought discredit to the House.”

The committee will deliberate on the recommendation and return to issue a decision, which will then be voted on by the full House. No member has been censured by the House since 1983, when Rep. Gerry Studds, a Massachusetts Democrat and the first openly gay member of Congress, and Republican Daniel Crain of Illinois received the punishment after having sex with teenage pages. Censure is a slightly stronger form of punishment than a reprimand, the sanction reportedly suggested by the subcommittee that investigated the allegations against Rangel. But it would enable him to remain in the House.

In a statement given after Chisam’s recommendation, Rangel was both contrite and contentious. He accepted responsibility for breaking rules, but again denied the suggestion that he had engaged in corrupt behavior. He spent much of his speech sparring with committee member Jo Bonner, a Republican from Alabama, who criticized the Harlem Democrat, 80, in his opening remarks. John Lewis, a Democrat from Georgia, spoke on Rangel’s behalf, tracing the 20-term Congressman’s career from his service in Korea through law school, civil-rights battles in the segregated South and his four decades representing upper Manhattan.

In a written statement issued this morning, Rangel said: “I truly believe public officials have a higher responsibility than most Americans to obey the rules because we write them. There can be no excuse for my acts of omission. I’ve failed in carrying out my responsibilities. I made numerous mistakes. But corruption and personal enrichment are certainly not part of my mistakes and the Committee’s chief counsel made that abundantly clear.”