Rangel Urges Reprimand, Not Censure

By John Bresnahan
|  Monday, Nov 29, 2010  |  Updated 7:00 AM EDT
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Rangel Urges Reprimand, Not Censure

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WASHINGTON - NOVEMBER 18: Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) walks away after being told that the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, voted to censure him on November 18, 2010 in Washington, DC. The committee voted 9-1 to censure Rangel for committing 11 ethics violations. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) wants the House to issue a formal reprimand — rather than the more serious censure — as his punishment for violating ethics rules.

Sources with knowledge of Rangel’s plans also said the 80-year-old New York Democrat will ask the House ethics committee, which found him guilty of 11 ethics violations Nov. 16, for permission to speak to the full House before any sanction is carried out.

These sources also noted that Rangel had signed an agreement in late July — which Republicans on the committee ultimately rejected — admitting to several ethics violations with reprimand as the punishment. That agreement was negotiated by Blake Chisam, chief counsel and staff director for the ethics committee, the sources said.

And Rep. Gene Green (D-Texas), who chaired the special subcommittee that conducted the Rangel probe, told reporters July 30 that the panel had recommended a reprimand for Rangel. Green later retracted those comments under pressure from Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the full ethics committee.

Rangel was found guilty by the ethics panel of 11 counts of violating ethics rules, including charges that he improperly solicited millions of dollars from corporate officials and lobbyists for the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at City College of New York, failed to disclose hundreds of thousands of dollars of income and assets on financial disclosure forms, maintained a rent-stabilized apartment as a campaign office in a Harlem apartment building and failed to pay income taxes on a villa in the Dominican Republic.

The Associated Press reported Sunday that Rangel had recently sent $15,000 to the U.S. Treasury and New York state treasury, money that was supposed to make up for taxes he had not paid. This was per order of the ethics panel.

The ethics committee approved censuring Rangel as punishment for those violations. Chisam, who acted as lead prosecutor in the case, told the panel that Rangel’s conduct warranted a sanction “between reprimand and censure,” but he ultimately came down in support of censure. The ethics committee voted 9-1 on Nov. 18 to censure Rangel.

Members of Rangel’s camp now argue, however, that censure — in which a member stands in the well of the House to receive a verbal rebuke from the speaker — is too heavy a punishment for the New York Democrat. They point out that the ethics committee admitted that Rangel was not personally corrupt, a common element of cases in which censure is used against lawmakers.

 

They also noted that only four members have been censured since the creation of the ethics committee in 1967, and in those episodes, the charges were much more serious than those against Rangel.

The last time any member was sanctioned was July 1983: Reps. Daniel Crane (R-Ill.) and Gerry Studds (D-Mass.) were found guilty of sexual misconduct with House pages.

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.

The Rangel camp will circulate a document to members titled “10 Reasons Why Charles B. Rangel Should Not Receive Censure,” outlining the history of the punishment and arguing that a reprimand is sufficient in Rangel’s case.

Rangel also plans to make a personal appeal to his colleagues for such an action, if given permission to do so by Lofgren when the ethics committee’s censure resolution is brought up on the floor.

Rangel could ask the House for time to address the body on a “point of personal privilege,” but that would not necessarily come at the same time as the vote on a censure resolution.

House Democratic leaders have not scheduled a vote yet on a censure motion against Rangel, although it is expected to occur this week, according to House insiders.

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