It has been 729 days since Rep. Charlie Rangel publicly appealed for an ethics investigation into his own actions. Hes still awaiting the outcome.
The New York Democrat, who has paid more than $1.5 million to date on legal fees, faces a multipronged investigation into his personal finances, living arrangements, fundraising efforts and even his use of a House parking space.
The investigation into Rangel, begun in July 2008, has yet to set a House record for longevity. But Congressional ethics observers acknowledge that nearly two years is nonetheless a lengthy inquiry.
The Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, also known as the ethics committee, declined a request for comment, and it is not known whether the highly secretive panel will release a final report.
Individuals familiar with the ethics process cited a litany of reasons the probe could remain incomplete, ranging from scheduling delays in the investigative stage to disagreements over the final report.
Only the people on the ethics committee would know why its taken so long, Public Citizens Craig Holman said. It certainly could be a factor that theyre taking on more cases ... but still thats not an excuse to drag on an investigation for two years. It isnt fair to anyone: It isnt fair to the public, and it isnt fair to Rangel.
But a former House ethics aide, who requested anonymity and agreed to speak generally about the investigative process, said any number of factors can lengthen an inquiry, including cooperation from a Member.
Some attorneys have a scorched-earth policy, and that just takes a long time, the former aide said.
The subcommittee itself can also demand additional time, if for example, Members of the panel insist on being present for each witness deposition.
Theyre not going to be able to dedicate the whole day to depositions, the former aide added, noting that schedules must compete with committee hearings and other activities when the House is in session.
Even after the investigative stage is complete, a final report may face delays. Although a report requires only a major vote of three of the four subcommittee members, the investigative panels often strive for unanimity.
Reaching agreement on the report can also take a long time, the aide said.
During its inquiry into Rangel, the committee has also expanded its focus three times.
When Rangel first called for an investigation July 17, 2008, and filed a formal request a few days later, he sought only a review of his use of official letterhead in the allegations about his fundraising for a City College of New York center bearing his name.
He followed that request by asking for a review of his living arrangement in three rent-controlled apartments in New York City. The ethics committee announced July 31, 2008, it would review both issues.
Roll Call has launched a new feature, Hill Navigator, to advise congressional staffers and would-be staffers on how to manage workplace issues on Capitol Hill. Please send us your questions anything from office etiquette, to handling awkward moments, to what happens when the work life gets too personal. Submissions will be treated anonymously.