A spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Friday that there is a “bipartisan process” in place that should be allowed to finish before the fate of Charles Rangel, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, is decided.
By Cristina Corbin
Innocent until proven guilty — that’s why House Speaker Nancy Pelosi refuses to remove New York Rep. Charles Rangel from his powerful chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Committee.
As the House Ethics Committee investigates a string of allegations against Rangel, who represents New York’s Harlem district, a spokesman for Pelosi said Friday that the “bipartisan process” should be allowed to finish before the congressman’s fate is decided.
The committee voted unanimously Thursday to expand its probe of Rangel, who faces numerous allegations spanning several years, including alleged failure to pay taxes and disclose as much as $1.3 million in income that he earned from multiple properties.
Pelosi thinks removing Rangel from the chairmanship of the powerful tax-writing committee before the ethics probe is completed would undermine the American principle of innocent until proven guilty, said Drew Hammill, the speaker’s spokesman. He said Pelosi does not believe her decision weakens the public perception of congressional ethics.
“We have a bipartisan process in place. It should be allowed to finish,” Hammill told FOXNews.com. “We are confident the committee will conduct a thorough review and then report to the full House.”
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer echoed Pelosi’s position, telling FOXNews.com that “yesterday’s statement shows that the bipartisan ethics committee is doing its work.”
A handful of House and Senate members have been the subjects of government ethics probes, and there appears to be no record of anyone ever being stripped from a committee role pending the outcome of an active investigation.
Sen. Robert Packwood, R-Ore., resigned from office in 1995, a day after the Senate Ethics Committee recommended he be expelled from office for abuse of power, including “repeatedly committing sexual misconduct” and “engaging in a deliberate… plan to enhance his personal financial position.”
In 1982, Sen. Harrison Williams, D-N.J., resigned after an ethics committee found that his conduct in the Abscam scandal, a public corruption investigation, was “ethically repugnant.” Williams — along with five members of the House and one member of the New Jersey State Senate — was convicted on numerous charges, including conspiracy, bribery, and conflict of interest.
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Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.) sat stone-faced as the House chamber buzzed around him, preparing to vote on a measure that could partly undo his almost four decades of work in Congress.
As Republicans pressed their attempt to remove him from his perch as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Democrats stood by Rangel — who is under investigation for a series of alleged violations that include improperly occupying several rent-controlled New York City apartments and not disclosing a laundry list of income and assets — and deflected the measure to committee.
They have stuck with Rangel repeatedly as the list of charges against him has grown, resisting any temptation to push aside a popular fixture in the party who helped found the Congressional Black Caucus in 1971. They have done so despite vows from Republicans to continue to force them to go on the record in defense of their colleague. But the issue carries complications for both parties.
Instead of full-throated defenses of Rangel, House Democrats measured their comments. Asked whether the controversy would have any negative impact on his party, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, sidestepped the question, saying that “the issue is making sure there is a fair process.”
Some Republicans, meanwhile, chafed at the sharp rhetoric aimed at Rangel, a jovial lawmaker who has many friends in both parties and is in a position to dole out favors on both sides of the aisle.
“There are some serious issues,” said Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.), who voted with the Democrats on Wednesday and said he was not ready to call for Rangel to give up his chairmanship. “But from what I know, there was no malice or malfeasance. He’s a war hero, he’s been here for 40 years, he’s a decent guy.”
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Forty years of tax evasion, misdeeds and contempt
By ISABEL VINCENT and MELISSA KLEIN
On April 9, 1965, a 34-year-old lawyer named Charles Rangel took out a low-interest mortgage to renovate his childhood home — a row house on West 132nd Street that he had just inherited from his grandfather.
The $39,350 loan came from a New York City program to develop low-income housing. Rangel and his sister Frances were to use the money to turn the family home in Central Harlem, which Rangel affectionately called Buckingham Palace, into six apartments.
While Rangel may have thought he scored a sweetheart deal, the loan came back to haunt him during his first run for Congress in 1970. An opponent in the Democratic primary accused him of violating the conditions of the mortgage because he was living in one of the apartments that were supposed to be rented only to poor people,
“If Charlie Rangel is low income, then we have a new crisis in this country,” Jesse Gray, a longtime housing activist, charged.
Rangel brushed aside the accusations, and went on to defeat both Gray and Adam Clayton Powell, who had held the Harlem congressional seat since 1944.
But even as he celebrated his victory, the loan dogged the young, ambitious politician. City and federal investigators launched a probe into the dealings of the $135 million Municipal Loan Program, which was set up to give loans to building owners who couldn’t otherwise get funding to rehabilitate their properties. The Post, in a front-page story in July 1971, fingered the newly minted Congressman and another elected official in the scandal.
Rangel denounced the accusations by attacking the “yellow journalism” of The Post and said that he didn’t see anything wrong with living in a Harlem apartment renovated with money reserved for poor people. He also said he was not a public official when he received the 1965 loan.
“The New York Post has the power to destroy,” said Rangel at a 1971 press conference in his Harlem office. “I received a loan to rehabilitate a building I lived in all my life, to rebuild my homestead where five low-income families now live.”
But even people who should have been his political allies were upset.
“I am shocked that Congressman Rangel, who has a Congressional budget of more than $200,000 a year, has used thousands of dollars of New York City money to feather his own nest when welfare recipients are being thrown out into the streets or being forced to live in squalid hotels,” said Leonard de Champs, chairman of Harlem’s Congress of Racial Equality, a civil rights group.
See the rest @ The New York Post
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