Charles Rangel Faces Congressional Ethics Trial

Jonathan Berr
Charles Rangel
Charles Rangel

Rep. Charles Rangel, the New York Democrat who has represented Harlem for four decades, will face a rare trial before the House Ethics Committee on 13 charges that he misused his position as the powerful chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee.

The trial of Rangel, who was first elected to Congress in 1970, comes after settlement talks to avoid the potentially embarrassing situation for Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Rangel ally, broke down, according to The New York Times.

Pressure is mounting on the veteran lawmaker from Democrats worried about the spectacle of a public trial as they struggle to maintain control of the House. So far, Rangel, who is accused of trading legislative favors improperly accepting rent-stabilized apartments, avoiding paying taxes on a condominium in the Dominican Republic and violating House rules on the acceptance of gifts, has not been willing to play ball.

"He just refuses to admit any wrongdoing," says Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington in an interview. "This is terrible going into the elections. I am sure this must be thrilling for Republicans."

Among the charges Rangel faces are that he misused his position as chairman of Ways and Means Committee in early 2007 by helping protect a tax break for an oil executive who pledged $1 million to help build the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at the City College of New York, according to the Times

Rangel, 80, is a decorated Korean War veteran whose public service dates to the Watergate scandal. Adam Clayton Powell IV, Rangel's main contemporary challenger and the son of the man he defeated 40 years ago, called on the New York Democrat to "leave with some honor," according to told DailyFinance's sister site Politics Daily. Powell, though, has plenty of baggage of his own, and even with the growing scandal there is no guarantee he can beat Rangel, who is running for a 21st term and still expected to be re-elected in November.

A Rangel spokesperson could not immediately be reached.

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