The House ethics committee has recommended by a vote of 9-1, that Representative Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.) be censured for unethical misconduct after a two-year inquiry into a number of alleged illegal activities. A censure is just one disciplinary step away from expulsion. A full vote in the House on the matter is the next step in the disciplinary process, and is expected to occur after the Thanksgiving recess.
Rangel was under investigation for tax evasion resulting from his failure to pay income taxes on rentals from a vacation home, using his Congressional office as a fundraising hub for a college center named after him, and illegally occupying a rent controlled apartment owned by a developer who had business dealings in Congress with Rangel.
As former chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, Rangel was responsible for overseeing the nation’s tax legislation, an irony not lost in his failure to pay income taxes on substantial rental income on his second home in the Dominican Republic for a period of seventeen years. As far back as 1990, he owed $16,775 in unpaid taxes. The maximum amount of his delinquency was not disclosed.
The congressman also used his office and letterhead to seek donations to finance a college wing in his honor, from companies that had business before the Ways and Means committee. Once he became chairman of the committee, he was able to secure contributions in the six and seven-figure range.
Rangel also obtained a rent controlled apartment in the building where he lived in New York, and converted it into a campaign office. Others in the building that used units as offices got evicted.
An ethics panel found him guilty earlier in the week of 11 ethics violations and turned the matter over to the full ethics committee for their action. Rangel showed up for the trial on Monday but left abruptly after the panel turned down his request to delay the hearings because of a falling out Rangel had with his lawyers.
Rangel showed up for the hearing on Thursday, although his demeanor was markedly different from that on Monday. A tearful Rangel pleaded with the committee in an emotional hearing that lasted for about three hours, to refrain from declaring him “corrupt”, or a “crook.”
If censured, Rangel will be the 23rd House member in the nation’s history to receive the punishment. The last time it occurred was in 1983, when two congressmen were found guilty of sexual misconduct with House pages. A formal censure would require that Rangel stand in the House chambers and face his colleagues his colleagues, while the speaker of the House reads the censure resolution.
The 80 year-old Rangel was reelected to Congress in November and will be sworn in to his 21st term on Jan. 5.