In an extraordinary public statement, all five Republican members of the House ethics committee are calling on Democrats to schedule ethics trials for Reps. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) and Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) before the November elections.
Rep. Jo Bonner (R-Ala.), ranking member of the committee, was joined by his four Republican colleagues on the bipartisan committee in slamming ethics committee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) for not scheduling the trials.
“The chairwoman has repeatedly refused to set either the Rangel or Waters trial before the November election,” the Republicans wrote in a letter released Tuesday. “While we regret that the committee has not worked together in a bipartisan fashion to ensure the transparent and fair resolution of these matters to date, we look forward to working with the chairwoman in a bipartisan manner to accomplish this – and other important unfinished committee business – in the coming weeks.”
Bonner’s public criticism of Lofgren is a surprising move, considering the usually secretive nature of congressional ethics committees, and it opens up a divisive partisan clash over the Rangel and Waters cases. Lofgren and Bonner have been at pains since the start of the 111th Congress to play up their bipartisan cooperation on ethics cases, issuing frequent public statements highlighting their cooperation.
But Bonner and other Republicans were angered by what they characterized as backdoor talks between the Lofgren and her aides and the lawyers for Rangel shortly before the announced a 13-count “statement of violation” against him last month.
Rangel refused to agree to the charges and forced the ethics committee to announce it shortly before the August congressional recess that it would conduct a “trial” of the venerable New York Democrat sometime in the fall.
Rangel has been charged with a variety of ethics violations, including allegations that he improperly solicited millions of dollars from corporate officials and lobbyists for the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at City College in New York; failed to disclose hundreds of thousands of dollars of income and assets on financial disclosure forms; maintained multiple rent-stabilized apartments in a luxury Harlem apartment building; and failed to pay income taxes on a villa in the Dominican Republic. Rangel has denied any wrongdoing.
But sources close to the committee now say that the Rangel trail won’t come until after Election Day and could possibly slide into 2011.
The Waters’ proceedings may also be delayed into 2011 as well. Waters and her top aides are accused of improperly helping a bank where her husband owned stock to obtain emergency federal funding in late 2008.
Bonner and the other Republicans also criticized Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who “inaccurately stated that the scheduling of the trials” was up to Bonner and Lofgren.
They said that decision was Lofgren’s alone to make, not something for Bonner to decide.
“After months of trial preparation – an in the Rangel matter, two years of investigation – Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren should have already issued notices of public trial schedules in both the Rangel and Waters matters,” the Republicans said in their public statement.