Eric Lipton at NYT:
A House investigative panel has found “substantial reason to believe” that Representative Charles B. Rangel violated a range of ethics rules, dealing a serious blow to Mr. Rangel, a Harlem Democrat, in the twilight of his political career.
The finding means that the 80-year-old congressman must face a public trial before the House ethics committee, the first member to be forced to do so since 2002, when former Representative James A. Traficant Jr. was expelled from Congress after taking bribes.
The investigative panel did not disclose any details about the nature of the violations.
But two Democrats with knowledge of the investigation said the committee found evidence to support accusations that Mr. Rangel wrongly accepted four rent-stabilized apartments in Manhattan and misused his office to preserve a tax loophole worth half a billion dollars for an oil executive who pledged a donation for an educational center being built in Mr. Rangel’s honor.
The committee also found evidence to support a charge that Mr. Rangel failed to report or pay taxes on rental income from his beachfront Dominican villa.
Jay Newton-Small at Swampland at Time:
The last time such an open process was used was for former Rep. James Traficant, an Ohio Democrat who was expelled from the House in 2002 for taking bribes, racketeering, filing false tax returns and forcing aides to perform household chores on his Ohio farm and DC houseboat (which was, coincidentally, parked not far from Duke Cunningham’s houseboat). Traficant served seven years in prison and is now a radio host in Ohio. He recently filed papers to make an independent run for his old seat.
Former Majority Leader Tom DeLay skipped such a step when his ethics investigation went right from the exploratory phase to admonishment — a first in ethics committee history.
Rangel first asked the committee two years ago to look into newspaper allegations that he’d failed to report income from a Caribbean rental, that he used Congressional letterhead to solicit donations for a charity in his name and that he broke New York rent subsidy laws. The alleged tax lapses were particularly worrisome as the chairman of the Ways & Means Committee is Congress’s top tax writer. Politico reported that Rangel was seen arguing with ethics committee chair Zoe Lofgren shortly before today’s announcement was made. Zofgren had, reportedly, been encouraging Rangel to follow a DeLay route and skip the adjudicatory process. As of August 2009, Rangel had spent more than $1 million in legal fees defending his actions to the committee. If he’s found in violation of House rules the committee’s evidence could be turned over to prosecutors to pursue a criminal case
James Richardson at Redstate:
In the same way that Republican ethics violations loomed large in the 2006 midterm elections that saw the House of Representatives change hands, Rangel’s ethics misdeeds threaten to undermine Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s pledge to run the “most honest, most open and most ethical Congress in History.”
But for now, the specific nature of charges against Rangel remain unknown — and will likely remain as such until next Thursday when he makes his case to the ethics panel. In the meantime, a list–that is, unfortunately, in no way comprehensive–of the 80-year-old lawmaker’s ethics lapses:
- Violating New York state and city zoning laws, Rep. Rangel rented in 2008 several rent-stabilized Harlem apartments and used one for a base of operations for his reelection effort.
- Days later it was revealed Rangel had used congressional letterhead to solicit funds for his personal foundation, the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service.
- The following month, in August of 2008, the New York Post reported that Rangel had failed to disclose income from renting his beachfront villa on a Dominican Republic resort. In total, Rangel failed to disclose $75,000 in rental income since 1988. Rangel secured a seven-year fixed rate loan at 10.5 % for the property, but two years later the interest on the loan, which was awarded by a company for which the congressman was an early investor, was waived. Rangel paid $10,800 in back-taxes for his 2004, 2005 and 2006 tax returns for the unreported rental income.
- Rangel violated House rules and failed to report income to the IRS when he left his 1972 Mercedes in a House parking lot for several years without registering the car. The car, without license plates and covered by a tarp, occupied a space for several years valued a $290 per month.
- In November 2008, the Post’s muckrakers discovered that Rangel had improperly received a “homestead” tax exemption on a property he owned in Washington, D.C., while occupying his four rent-stabilized apartments in New York City.
- Rangel secured tax benefits for a company whose chief executive he was courting as a donor for his private foundation.
- And most recently, a House panel admonished the scandal-plagued congressman for wrongly accepting reimbursements for two Caribbean trips in 2007 and 2008.
Mary Katherine Ham at The Weekly Standard:
Rangel’s lawyer tried to settle but was rebuffed. The man who writes the tax law you must follow
This is five months in the making, starting with his admonishment back in February over staff members having accepted free trips to the Caribbean and culminating a week later in his removal from Ways and Means — albeit supposedly only on a temporary basis. Anyone think he’ll be returning to the committee after this, even if he beats the rap?
The next step is a trial by subcommittee. Given that the most ethical Congress ever had a decidedly lackluster reputation on ethics until now, I wonder how much pressure for and against charging Rangel there is on the Democratic side. On the one hand, this is going to push ethics back on the campaign menu. On the other, if they beat up on Rangel, it makes them look forthright. Stand by for updates.
Jim Newell at Gawker:
While nothing short of a mobilized Allied army seems capable of forcing Rep. Charlie Rangel out of Congress, the House ethics committee will charge him with official ethics violations, essentially setting up a trial — the first in eight years.The violations have not been officially filed yet, so the specific violations they’re pursuing out of his career’s 10 billion worth aren’t fully clear. Probably related to this stuff, though, which people who’ve followed Rangel’s investigation are quite familiar with:
The committee had been investigating claims that Mr. Rangel improperly rented four rent-stabilized apartments in Harlem at a price well below market value, despite rules forbidding House members from accepting gifts worth more than $50.
It also had been investigating allegations that he improperly used his office to provide legislative favors for an oil-drilling company that pledged a $1 million donation for an academic center named for Mr. Rangel and improperly failed to report taxable income received from a villa he owns in the Dominican Republic.
Maybe we’ll get something else, though? Something a little more blog-friendly? Sex, maybe?
UPDATE: Michelle Malkin
Nicole Allan at The Atlantic
Jesse Zwick at The Washington Independent
UPDATE #3: Steve Krakauer at Mediaite