Rangel Storms Out of Ethics Trial as House Rejects Plea for Delay
Monday, 15 Nov 2010 01:09 PM Article Font Size
By Jim Meyers
Embattled Rep. Charles Rangel stunned a House ethics panel weighing charges against him by walking out of the hearing room as the proceedings were about to begin Monday morning.
Despite having had months to prepare for the hearing, the New York Democrat showed up without a lawyer and claimed he had not had enough time to set up a defense fund and did not have the money to hire an attorney.
“I respectfully remove myself from these hearings,” 80-year-old Rangel said before bolting from the eight-member subcommittee.
Rangel, who is charged with 13 ethics violations, told the panel that he had already spent $2 million on his defense and insisted that moving ahead with the hearing would be unfair, ABC News reported.
“I don’t think it’s fair,” Rangel said, asserting that he needed time to raise $1 million to retain new counsel for the hearing.
After leaving the hearing room, Rangel — who was first elected in 1970 — was asked if he walked out of the hearing to delay the proceedings, the New York Daily News reported. Rangel responded: “I would say that’s a stupid question.”
After he departed, the ethics panel comprised of four Democrats and four Republicans met behind closed doors and decided to continue with the proceedings.
“We recognize that Mr. Rangel has indicated that he does not intend to participate, and that is his right,” said committee chairwoman Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat.
“These matters have been underway for quite some time. We are prepared to proceed today . . .
“Mr. Rangel has repeatedly sought and received legal guidance as to how he can pay [for legal counsel]. Mr. Rangel was provided with all the material and evidence on June 17 of this year.”
Lofgren has said the proceedings need to be completed by the end of the current Congress, according to ABC News.
As a series of allegations of ethics violations, including tax questions, came to light, Rangel in March stepped aside as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, which writes the nation’s tax code. And three months ago, Rangel demanded a hearing before the ethics panel and dared his colleagues to kick him out on the ethics charges.
In February, the House Ethics Committee concluded that Rangel had violated House gift rules by accepting payment from corporations for reimbursement for travel to conferences in the Caribbean, and required him to repay those expenses.
The ethics panel is also looking into allegations that Rangel was improperly living in several rent-stabilized apartments in Manhattan while claiming his Washington, D.C. home as his primary residence for tax purposes.
The New York Times reported in July 2008 that Rangel rents four apartments in Harlem at below-market rates and has used one apartment as a campaign office, which violates city and state regulations requiring that rent-stabilized apartments be used only as a primary residence.
Rangel was also accused of failing to report income from the rental of a villa he owns in Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, which he rented out for as much as $1,100 a night.
In September 2008, Rangel paid back taxes of $10,800 owed from rental income on his Punta Cana villa.
Also in September 2008, the New York Post reported that Rangel “has been using a House of Representatives parking garage for years as free storage space for his old Mercedes-Benz, a violation of congressional rules and a potential new tax woe for the embattled lawmaker . . . The spaces are valued by the House at $290 per month.”
Rangel has also been charged with using his official congressional letterhead to solicit funds for the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at City College of New York, and failing to reveal more than half a million dollars in income and assets on financial disclosure forms.
On July 22, a four-member investigative subcommittee of the House Ethics Committee indicated it had “substantial reason to believe” that Rangel had violated ethics rules. And on July 29, Rangel was charged by the committee with 13 counts of violating House rules and federal laws.
The last ethics trial in the House was in 2002 for Rep. James Traficant, an Ohio Democrat later expelled from Congress.
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