Rangel Still Fighting to Clear His Name

Posted November 14, 2014 at 2:26pm

Four years after the House censured Rep. Charles B. Rangel on ethics charges, the 23-term Democrat from New York is still fighting to wipe that from the record—literally.

Rangel’s federal lawsuit against Speaker John A. Boehner and other lawmakers who were on the House Ethics Committee seeks, among other demands, an order that would remove from “the Journal of the House’s Proceedings” any reference to the fact that Rangel had been censured.

Rangel’s lawyer, Jay Goldberg, argued Thursday before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, trying to keep the case alive. Rangel is appealing a federal district judge’s ruling that threw out the lawsuit in December on procedural grounds.

The three-judge panel seemed skeptical that Rangel’s claims could overcome the Speech or Debate Clause that says lawmakers, “for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.”

Isaac Rosenberg, of the House Office of General Counsel, told the D.C. Circuit that Rangel’s lawsuit seeks something “extraordinary, unprecedented and ultimately unconstitutional–effectively to undo his censure by the House of Representatives in the 111th Congress.”

Ethics allegations against him at that time included using a rent-stabilized Harlem apartment for a campaign office, under-reporting rental income on a vacation property in the Dominican Republic, failing to disclose personal assets and using congressional letterhead as part of a fundraising campaign.

Rangel filed the lawsuit in 2013, after learning of a memorandum purportedly written by the chief counsel of the Ethics Committee that would significantly undermine the integrity of his censure proceedings. Rangel argues that had he known about the memo, the House might never have censured him.

The memorandum contained purported ex parte communications between staffers and certain members of the House Ethics Committee during Rangel’s disciplinary proceeding, according to court records.

The D.C. Circuit panel will issue a ruling at a later date. The case is Charles Rangel v. John Boehner, 14-5012.