The image and reputation of one of the longest serving and better known black US Congressmen, Charlie Rangel, from the state of New York, have been severely tarnished with Thursday’s decision of the House Ethics Committee, to censure him.
Rangel was forced to endure a most embarrassing appearance before his own colleagues, while receiving an oral rebuke by the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.
Though Rangel argued that he was not a crooked individual, his political opponents were of a different view, with Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, questioning the assertion of Rangel — the former chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee — that he wasn’t corrupt.
McCaul is said to have asked, “Failure to pay taxes for 17 years. What is that?” McCaul was referring to Rangel’s shortchanging the Internal Revenue Service on rental income from his villa in the Dominican Republic.
McCaul also noted the committee’s finding that Rangel solicited donors for the Charles B. Rangel Center at City College of New York from donors who had business before the Ways and Means Committee.
The New York Representative, who was recently re-elected by a large margin, was censured for his alleged financial and fundraising misconduct.
Short of expulsion, censure is the most serious congressional discipline and the House, which could change the recommended discipline measure proposed by the Ethics Committee, has the option to either institute a more serious or less serious punishment. However a final decision is not expected until sometime later this month, perhaps after Thanksgiving.
The vote to censure was 9-1 and the committee also recommended that Rangel pay any taxes he owes on income from a vacation villa in the Dominican Republic. The five Democrats and five Republicans on the panel deliberated for about three hours behind closed doors.
Earlier, at a sanctions hearing, the 20-term congressman apologized for his misconduct but said he was not a crooked politician out for personal gain. He was in the House hearing room when the ethics committee chairman, Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California, announced the recommendation.
Rangel said, “I hope you can see your way clear to indicate any action taken by me was not with the intention of bringing any disgrace on the House or enriching myself personally. Rangel, 80, ended the sanctions hearing with an emotional plea to salvage his reputation.
(Story partly written by Larry Margasak, Associated Press)