Rangel, Ethics Committee in Last-Minute Bargaining
July 27, 2010 - 10:58 AMNew York Democrat Charles Rangel is making a last-minute effort to settle his ethics case and prevent a trial that could embarrass him and damage the Democratic Party, people familiar with the talks said Tuesday.
Rangel would have to admit to ethical misconduct to end the case. Earlier talks broke down because the former House Ways and Means chairman would not admit to enough wrongdoing to satisfy the House ethics committee.
The talks were confirmed by people familiar with the secret negotiations but were not authorized to speak on the record.
A settlement would spare Rangel an ethics trial and would be a welcome relief for House Democrats nervous about seeing an ethics proceeding amid the campaign season as they fight to hold onto their majority strength in Congress.
The ethics committee's trial phase was to begin Thursday afternoon, when an equally divided, eight-member panel was to hold its first proceeding and publicly read the charges.
A House investigative committee last week approved multiple alleged violations against Rangel. People familiar with the still-secret charges said they related, in part, to:
-Rangel's use of official stationery to raise money for the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at City College of New York.
-His use of four rent-subsidized apartment units in New York City.
-Rangel's failure to report income as required on his annual financial disclosure forms. The committee had investigated his failure to report income from the lawmaker's rental unit at the Punta Cana Yacht Club in the Dominican Republic. Rangel also belatedly disclosed hundreds of thousands of dollars in investment assets.
-His failure to pay taxes on all his income from the resort unit.
A number of Democrats have returned money raised by Rangel and a few called on him to resign. However, Monday night the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, Democrat Barbara Lee of California, warned her party members against rushing to judgment.
The message was: Don't pressure Rangel. However, that wouldn't prevent the 40-year House veteran, who is 80 years old, from deciding on his own to negotiate a plea bargain.
Democratic leaders need support from the 42-member Black Caucus for legislative initiatives and to make sure that African-Americans turn out in November to elect Democrats.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, who was not confirming any negotiations, told reporters Tuesday, "I think everybody would like to have it go away in the sense that this is not a pleasant process."
The Maryland Democrat said he didn't know what Rangel's decision would be.
"Mr. Rangel has to do what Mr. Rangel believes is appropriate and proper," he said.
Associated Press Writer Ann Sanner contributed to this story.
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