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Rangel Calls Ethics Process Unfair

Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) slammed a House ethics subcommittee Tuesday after it declared he repeatedly violated the chamber’s rules, asserting he was denied due process in the proceedings.

“While I am required to accept the findings of the Ethics Committee, I am compelled to state again the unfairness of its continuation without affording me the opportunity to obtain legal counsel as guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution,” Rangel said in a statement posted on his website Tuesday.

Rangel made a brief appearance before the ethics subcommittee Monday, but he boycotted the proceedings after the panel rejected his requests for a postponement.

Rangel had asked for the hearing to be delayed while he sought new legal counsel. The senior Democrat, who has spent more than $2 million on legal fees since 2008 and claimed in August he could no longer afford representation, split with his defense attorney in October.

In his absence, the subcommittee opted to abbreviate the ethics trial, which had been expected to last several days, eliminating witnesses and oral arguments. Instead, the subcommittee voted to accept the facts in the case as undisputed and moved immediately to its deliberations over whether Rangel’s actions constituted violations of the rules.

The panel convicted Rangel on 11 of 13 charges leveled by an investigative subcommittee in July, including allegations that he misused federal resources to solicit donations for a City College of New York center named in his honor, used a rent-stabilized apartment for his campaign office, failed to pay taxes on a Dominican Republic villa and filed inaccurate financial disclosure forms.

The Committee on Standards of Official Conduct will now determine whether to sanction Rangel.

The ethics panel may opt to punish Rangel through a “letter of reproval,” or it may recommend the full House vote to mete out a harsher punishment, including a reprimand, censure or expulsion from the chamber.

“How can anyone have confidence in the decision of the Ethics Subcommittee when I was deprived of due process rights, right to counsel and was not even in the room?” Rangel said in his statement. “I can only hope that the full Committee will treat me more fairly, and take into account my entire 40 years of service to the Congress before making any decisions on sanctions.”

Rangel also pointed to statements made by the ethics committee’s chief counsel, Blake Chisam, who acted as a prosecutor in the ethics hearing.

“The Committee’s findings are even more difficult to understand in view of yesterday’s declaration by the Committee’s chief counsel, Blake Chisam, that there was no evidence of corruption or personal gain in his findings,” Rangel said.

During the hearing, Chisam said: “I believe the Congressman, quite frankly, was overzealous in many of the things that he did and sloppy in his personal finances,” but not corrupt.

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