Rep. Charles Rangel went ahead with plans for a fundraising gala on Wednesday night with Democratic luminaries including the governor, presumptive governor and both the state's U.S. senators on the guest list — not bad for a congressman steeping in a tempest of ethics charges.
At around 7 p.m. Rangel threw out the official program, stepped to the stage and said, "This is absolutely totally unbelievable," referring to the packed house. "I am so moved."
The event, tied to his 80th birthday, has emerged as a test of political loyalty to Rangel, the dean of the state's congressional delegation. It came a just day after he delivered an impassioned speech on the House floor insisting he would not resign despite the 13 charges pending against him.
Despite Rangel's troubles, the fundraiser had sold out, with hundreds of people crowding the ballroom at the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan.
"A lot have been driven by a sense of unfairness," said Rangel spokesman Bob Liff. "Whether it's resentment or rallying around Charlie, there's been an outpouring in the last week."
Congressman Joe Crowley (D-Bronx/Queens) was there and emphatically stated: "Charlie Rangel is my friend and you never forget a friend."
And City Comptroller John Liu told NBCNewYork that he never equivocated about whether to come.
Also in attendance were singer Harry Bellafonte, activist Al Sharpton, former state comptroller Carl McCall, Gov. David Paterson, Speaker Christine Quinn, Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver, and Congressmen Greg Meeks and Jerrold Nadler also here. Mayor Bloomberg was also expected.
"I don't know if you've ever gone through something like what I'm going through," Rangel said to the crowd. "All of you have experiences when you just wished you had a friend..." Then thanked his wife and daughter and his friend Dave Dinkins.
"I ain't thinking about giving it up," he added.