Updated: 3:24 p.m.
Rep. Charlie Rangel offered a final plea to the House ethics committee Thursday before the panel convened a closed-door session to determine how to sanction the New York Democrat for his repeated violations of the chamber's rules.
"I just hope no matter what you decide in the sanctions that you put in that report that Congressman Rangel never sought any personal gains," Rangel said in his final remarks to the panel. "I've been overpaid in terms of the satisfaction I've gotten from everything."
He also accused the media of depicting him as a "crook," stating, "What the press has done to me ... is totally unfair."
"It's not your responsibility to correct them, but they will continue to call me a crook and charge me with being corrupt," he added.
Blake Chisam, the ethics panel's top attorney — who served as prosecutor during Rangel's ethics trial earlier this week — recommended that the senior Democrat be censured for his actions, one of the most severe sanctions under House rules.
Rangel was found guilty earlier this week of misusing federal resources to solicit donations for a City College of New York center named in his honor, using a rent-stabilized apartment for his campaign office, failing to pay taxes on a villa in the Dominican Republic and filing inaccurate financial disclosure forms.
During the first half of the sanction hearing, Rangel also criticized the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, asserting that he might have reached a settlement in the case — rather than proceed to an ethics trial — if the panel had agreed to say Rangel's actions were not corrupt.
The New York lawmaker cited Chisam’s statement during Monday’s adjudicatory hearing, in which the ethics aide stated: “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.
Asked about that statement Thursday, Chisam reiterated his opinion.
“Congressman, the other day I answered a question. I answered it based on my reading of the record, the interviews that I’ve conducted, the people I’ve talked to,” Chisam said. “It was my opinion, mine. I do not presume to speak for anyone else, nor did I intend too. I do think it comes to the question of intent at the end of the day, and that’s how I interpreted [Rep. G.K.] Butterfield’s [D-N.C.] question.”
Nonetheless, Chisam, echoing a report authored by the adjudicatory subcommittee that tried Rangel’s case, cited the New York lawmaker’s senior status in recommending the lawmaker be censured, instead of a reprimanded, a less severe penalty.
“A reprimand would not be inconsistent with the precedent,” Chisam said, after detailing a half-dozen Members previously punished by the committee. But he added, “We cannot ignore the fact that respondent was, at relevant times, either the chairman or ranking member of the Ways and Means Committee.”
Rangel forfeited his gavel in March after the ethics committee reprimanded him in an unrelated investigation for taking part in two Caribbean trips that violated House rules because the events received corporate funding.
Regardless of whether the ethics panel accepts Chisam’s recommendation or opts for the lesser sanction of reprimand, the full House must vote to approve the punishment.