The news surrounding the pending congressional ethics trial of Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) is all quite confusing. Despite reports that he has reached a settlement in the case, the House Ethics committee moved forward with his trial.
According to Reuters:
People familiar with the talks say representatives of New York Democrat Charles Rangel and lawyers for the House ethics committee have reached a plea deal in his ethics case. However, committee members have not agreed to the settlement.
It was not immediately clear how many of the 13 charges of ethical violations Rangel agreed to accept.
The committee did meet, and the charges against Rep. Rangel were read. A full copy can be read here (PDF). There are some eyebrow-raising charges, including a failure to report $600,000 of income on his congressional disclosure statements, along with rental income from a Dominican Republic property he purchased in 2005.
This sequence on pages 11-12 got my attention:
78. In April 2008, Respondent met with CCNY officials and AIG officials (the "AIG meeting"), including Edward "Ned" Cloonan, a federally-registered lobbyist, regarding the Rangel Center. The briefing memo prepared for Respondent by CCNY stated the objective of the meeting was to "close $10M gift for the Rangel Center to create AIG Hall."
79. At the AIG meeting, a potential donation to the Rangel Center was discussed. AIG raised concerns about a potential donation, including the potential headline risk. Respondent asked AIG, at least twice, what was necessary to get this done.
Seriously? AIG? In 2008? As the ethics report points out, AIG lobbied members of the House of Representatives on income tax issues, free trade issues and treaty issues. As head of the Ways and Means Committee, Rangel stepped way out of line when he undertook dealings with Verizon, AIG, Nabors Industries and others. That should be enough right there.
Will there be a trial? I'm guessing here, but I think the deal may involve a public release and reading of the charges, and his admission to the understatements of income on his disclosure statements. Ultimately, the charges are damning enough on their face to disgrace him. After all, if the Democrats want to point the finger at Newt Gingrich, Dick Armey, et al, then Charlie Rangel surely must also be a target, particularly with the evidence against him.
Charlie Rangel is 80 years old. He's been in Congress since 1971. At some point, his desire for a "legacy" outweighed any sense of ethics he had. So much of these charges center around his apparent need to have the Rangel Center become reality that he used his stationery, his station and evidently traded his soul for it. It's not a day to celebrate, but I am glad to see it coming to light.
If Democrats are smart, they'll point to the fact that at least they're cleaning out the rotten apples, whereas the Republicans double down and let the Vitters and Ensigns rot in the barrel along with everything else. It's about the best outcome there is, given that Charlie Rangel really doesn't have much of a defense for these charges.
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