Rangel says he's ready to fight ethics charges

July 23, 2010 3:24:11 PM PDT
Rep. Charles Rangel, who has spent half of his 80 years as a member of Congress, says he looks forward to fighting ethics charges. Other Democrats won't be so pleased. The ethics trial sought by the New York congressman and former Ways and Means Committee chairman will coincide with campaign season. Democrats will have to defend their party's conduct. If enough of them lose, the party could cede control of the House.

Rangel says he looks forward next week's meeting of the House Ethics Committee, where allegations against him will be aired publicly for the first time.

The 40-year Congressional veteran spoke Friday at his office in Harlem, a day after the ethics panel indicated he may have committed serious violations.

The panel did not disclose the allegations and Rangel declined to get into specifics.

Rangel said he was pleased that the matter would be addressed before his primary election in September and before the November general election. He says voters in his district deserve to know the truth about the allegations.

He says he's eager to be able to tell voters the results of the investigation, "so that they would know who Charlie Rangel really is."

Republicans are already going negative, reminding voters that Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised to "drain the swamp" of ethical misdeeds in Congress.

Rangel had a choice.

His lawyer had been negotiating with the House ethics committee to settle his case. But to end it, Rangel would have had to accept the allegations. Rangel had been willing to accept some, but that didn't satisfy the committee, according to a person familiar with the talks but not authorized to be quoted by name.

"I look forward to airing this thing," Rangel, who is tied for fourth in House seniority, told reporters Thursday, insisting the allegations against him have no substance.

"I am pleased that, at long last, sunshine will pierce the cloud of serious allegations that have been raised against me in the media," he said.

After a two-year investigation, a House panel on Thursday found that Rangel violated ethics rules.

The allegations include how Rangel got four rent-stabilized apartments in Harlem at a price well-below market value. He is also accused of hiding an investment account worth a half-million dollars.

He supposedly provided favors to an oil company in exchange for a million-dollar donation to a new school at City College named after Rangel. He also failed to report income or apparently pay taxes on a villa he owns in the Dominican Republic.

"I don't have any fear politically or personally with what they have come up with," Rangel said.

Despite the investigation, Rangel, who just turned 80, remains popular in Harlem as he runs for re-election this fall.

"We call him the Lion of Lenox Avenue and that's how I think Harlem and the rest of the world should remember him," Assemblyman Keith Wright said. "His days are not over yet. He very much has a future and we look forward to sharing that future with him."

Rangel, still chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee at the time, initially said he wouldn't step down from his post. After a closed-door meeting with Pelosi while reporters waited outside, Rangel changed his mind. He stepped aside from a chairmanship he may never get back, because of concerns that staying in the position would hurt other Democrats.

This time, he decided to fight on.

This is the first time in eight years the House Standards Committee has taken such drastic action. Further hearings could lead to anything from a reprimand to expulsion from the House.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)