Standing in the well of the House for his censure punishment last week was “an embarrassing and painful experience” for Rep. Charlie Rangel, but the New York Democrat said Sunday he is already moving on and, in some ways, feels vindicated.
“So the bottom line is that it’s rough, I broke the laws, serious rules that are set up by the House to protect Members and to protect the House, but the whole idea of corruption has been just laid to rest. The question of self-enrichment,” Rangel said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “And I was thinking about all of those things when I was in the well. And was saying at long last, it’s not just Charlie Rangel saying it. It’s the head prosecutor.”
Rangel has sought to emphasize that the adjudicatory subcommittee of the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct did not find him guilty of corruption, and he has often cited Blake Chisam, the ethics panel’s top attorney and the prosecutor during Rangel’s trial. Chisam told the panel in November, “I see no evidence of corruption,” adding, “I believe the Congressman, quite frankly, was overzealous in many of the things that he did and sloppy in his personal finances.”
Rangel was found to have 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 villa in the Dominican Republic and filed inaccurate financial disclosure forms.
The ethics committee voted Nov. 18 to recommend censure, citing Rangel’s status as the top Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee at the time of his transgressions, as well as the “cumulative” nature of the offenses. The House voted 333-79 on Thursday to censure him and issued the punishment, its harshest short of expulsion, that same night.
The censure itself was brief — Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) read a paragraph announcing the censure and ordering Rangel to pay back taxes after summoning him to the well of the House to receive the punishment.
Rangel said Sunday that he had reached a deal for a lesser punishment of a reprimand but that it was rejected.
“As a matter of fact, there was leaked out of committee — and for two years I could not discuss anything because it was being investigated — but someone leaked the fact, and it was the chief Democrat of the investigation committee, that they offered me a reprimand if I admitted what I am admitting publicly now, as though I rejected it. I signed that paper, and it was rejected by someone I don’t know,” he said.
The ethics panel’s investigatory subcommittee recommended reprimand, the subcommittee’s chairman, Rep. Gene Green (D-Texas), told reporters in July.
Ethics Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) sought to clarify the situation while speaking on the House floor last week. “We do not discuss the executive session deliberations of the committee, but I feel obliged to note, since I think a misimpression could be had, that in fact Mr. Rangel did sign a settlement effort, and the committee was unable to reach a settlement agreement with Mr. Rangel earlier this year,” she said Thursday.
Rangel has implied that the vote was political, saying Sunday that Members wouldn’t want to “do anything to look like you’re going easy on anybody in Washington.”
“But I can tell that individually, whether it’s Republicans or Democrats, they knew what I had done did not reach the level of a censure,” he said. “I accepted it, and I want to pick up the pieces and move on. There’s so much work that has to be done, and I’m very anxious to get started.”
When asked whether there were also racial motivations, he responded, “That’s the last thing in the world that I would want to discuss because God has been very good to me.” He listed his political successes as a prosecutor, state legislator and chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, saying, “I’d be hard put to start complaining now.”
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.
Jennifer Yachnin and Steven T. Dennis contributed to this report.