Ethics Committee Finds Rangel Likely Broke Rules

Posted July 22, 2010 at 3:23pm

Updated: July 22, 5:17 p.m.

The House ethics committee announced Thursday that an investigative subcommittee has found substantial reason to believe that Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) violated House rules or even broken the law, following a nearly two-year investigation into allegations involving his personal finances, fundraising efforts and other issues.

The committee is convening a panel to determine whether there was an actual rules violation.

According to a statement issued by the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, also known as the ethics committee, its investigative subcommittee authored a “statement of alleged violation” in the case, which it sent to the full panel Thursday.

The statement did not detail the alleged violations, or whether they include abuse of House rules or laws.

According to the House Ethics Manual, an investigative subcommittee may adopt a statement of alleged violation at the end of a probe “if it determines that there is substantial reason to believe that a violation … has occurred.”

The matter now moves to an adjudicatory subcommittee to determine whether the violations “have been proved by clear and convincing evidence and to make findings of fact,” the ethics committee said Thursday.

The adjudicatory panel, which will hold a public organization meeting July 29, will be led by ethics Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), along with Reps. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), Kathy Castor (D-Fla.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Mike Conaway (R-Texas), Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) and Gregg Harper (R-Miss.).

Both the ethics committee’s counsel and Rangel will be allowed to present evidence during the public hearing.

But the House ethics manual states, “The burden of proof rests on Committee counsel to establish the facts alleged in the Statement of Alleged Violation by clear and convincing evidence.”

If a majority of the adjudicatory panel votes in support of the alleged violations, the ethics committee must then hold a public sanction hearing to determine a punishment or vote to make a recommendation to the full House.
Sanctions the committee may hand down for violation of House rules include a letter of reproval, reprimand, censure and expulsion.

Rangel, who has paid more than $2 million to date on legal fees, faces a multi-pronged investigation into his personal finances, living arrangements in multiple rent-controlled apartments, fundraising efforts for a City College of New York center bearing his name and his use of a House parking space.

His office did not immediately return a telephone call for comment.

It is rare for the ethics committee to convene an adjudicatory panel — it has not done so since 2002, shortly before the House expelled then-Rep. Jim Traficant (Ohio).

Rangel stepped down from his perch at the Ways and Means Committee in March after the ethics panel admonished him for his involvement in two Caribbean trips that violated House rules on corporate funding.
In that case, the ethics panel found that six House lawmakers violated the chamber’s rules but criticized only Rangel because it found his staff was aware of the conflict.

An admonishment is not a formal sanction, however, and did not require the committee to hold public hearings.