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Finally the House ethics committee has decided to do their job. After almost two years of building scandal they have finally accused Charlie Rangel of violating house ethics rules. Next step will be a public hearing next week where Rangel will face his charges and get to address them.

While the committee did not release the actual charges Rangel will face next week they have a pile of violations to choose from. Among the misdeeds they have been investigating are;  “forgetting” to pay taxes on $75,000 in rental income he earned from his off-shore rental property, allegations he improperly used his influence to maintain ownership of four highly coveted rent-controlled apartments in Harlem, misuse of his congressional office to fundraise for the  Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service, and preserving a tax loophole for an oil drilling company in exchange for funding.

Beyond that, when the ethics heat started Rangel  amended his financial disclosure reports, which doubled his reported wealth. (He somehow “forgot” about $500,000 in assets ) And what did he do when the House Ethics Committee started looking into all of this? He started making “campaign contributions” to dig his way out of trouble. According to WCBS TV in NY:

“The reigning member of Congress’ top tax committee is apparently ‘wrangling’ other politicos to get him out of his own financial and tax troubles…Since ethics probes began last year the 79-year-old congressman has given campaign donations to 119 members of Congress, including three of the five Democrats on the House Ethics Committee who are charged with investigating him.” 

If Mr. Rangel is found guilty of violating House rules, he face a range of penalties including expulsion from Congress.

“The investigative subcommittee has said that there was wrongdoing. Now there will be public hearings” to determine if the charges can be proven, said Robert Walker, the former staff director of the ethics committee.

“I am pleased that, at long last, sunshine will pierce the cloud of serious allegations that have been raised against me in the media,” Mr. Rangel said in a statement. “I will be glad to respond to the allegations at such time as the ethics committee makes them public.”

….Rangel’s re-election chances hinge largely on the Sept. 14 Democratic Party primary, since his district is so heavily Democratic.

His challengers include state Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell IV, son of the man Rangel unseated in 1970. Also seeking the seat are Vince Morgan, a former aide to Mr. Rangel, as well as Jonathan Tasini, an anti-war activist, and Joyce Johnson, an Obama supporter.

Interestingly Rangel won he first election by defeating Adam Clayton Powell Jr. who was himself a very popular congressman until he was weakened by ethics violations. Following allegations that Powell had misappropriated Committee funds for his personal use (including giving his ex-wife a now show job). In 1967 the full House refused to seat him until completion of an investigation by the Judiciary Committee. Powell urged his supporters to “keep the faith, baby” while the investigation went on. On March 1 the House voted 307 to 116 to exclude him.

Who knows, 43 years later history may be repeating itself.

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