July 23, 2010

Ruh roh

Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) will stand trial on ethics charges after a House panel accused him Thursday of multiple violations.

The veteran lawmaker will challenge the findings in an open hearing.

The news of Rangel’s trial comes at a bad time for Democrats, who are hoping to retain control of Congress this fall.[..]

A visibly frustrated Rangel on Thursday afternoon told The Hill that he did not know what the “alleged violations are finally going to be.”[..]

Rangel is facing a competitive and crowded primary on Sept. 14. In a poll released this week, Rangel attracted 39 percent of the vote, followed by State Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell IV with 21 percent.

In all likelihood, Rangel’s trial will not start before his primary.

House ethics committee rules prohibit the committee from acting 30 days before a primary and 60 days before an election.

The House ethics rules also ensure that Rangel and his team of lawyers will have at least 15 days to review the allegations against him before the trial begins. [..]

In order for the committee to move forward with the trial, Rangel had to waive his rights to settle and accept the ethics committee punishment, according to ethics committee rules governing the trial process. Sources told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity that Rangel's attorney and the committee had failed to reach a settlement, which would have required an admission from Rangel that he broke ethics rules.

Public trials for ethics violations are rare and usually involve serious allegations against members, including censure and removal from office.

Rangel's characteristic bravado notwithstanding, there are reports that vulnerable Democratic congresspeople have already petitioned Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer to put pressure on Rangel to resign, rather than taint the entire party. Interesting that when you get the same kind of scandals on the other side, you don't see this same desire to get rid of the scandalized member; rather, they circle the wagons around them (see Vitter, DeLay, et al.). I'm not sure exactly what Rangel has done, but Jonathan Capehart at WaPo says good riddance:

The committee has had a lot to look into. But my favorite, hands down, is his amended financial disclosure forms that revealed not one but two checking accounts -- CHECKING -- with up to $500,000 in them. How that slips the mind of the man who at the time was the powerful chief of the tax-writing committee is beyond me.

"At long last, sunshine has pierced through this cloud that has been over my head for more than two years," Rangel said. This is classic Rangel. Trying to make a walk over hot coals look like a stroll on the Mall. I look forward to hearing whatever explanations he has for his violations. And I look forward to whatever penalties befall him.

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