CaribWorldNews, WASHINGTON, D.C., Fri. July 30, 2010: New York Democratic Congressman Charles Rangel, considered by many to be a `Friend of the Caribbean` and its issues, began a public trial before the U.S. House Sub-Committee on Standard of Conduct.
The 13 charges unveiled include Rangel`s solicitation of contributions to a school to be named in his honor at City College of New York; his errors and omissions on his House financial disclosure forms; his acceptance of rent-stabilized apartments in Harlem, including one for his campaign office; and his failure to report and pay taxes on rental income on a beach villa he owns in the Dominican Republic.
It also involves multiple breaches of the House ban on accepting gifts of more than $50 and of the requirement that members act at all times in a way that reflects creditably on the House.
The start of trial now marks the culmination of a two-year investigation into the charges against him. The 20-term congressman had tried to reach a deal to avoid a public trial but failed. The last time the House held a public trial of a member was in 2002, after Representative James Traficant, Democrat of Ohio, had been convicted criminally of accepting bribes.
Congressman Rangel did not appear at the meeting on Thursday submitted a written response to the charges claiming: `The Statement of Alleged Violation (`SAV`) in this case is deeply flawed in its factual premises and legal theories… The undisputed evidence in the record–assembled by the Investigative Subcommittee over its nearly two-year investigation–is that Congressman Rangel did not dispense any political favors, that he did not intentionally violate any law, rule or regulation, and that he did not misuse his public office for private gain.`
He later commented somberly to media greeting him as he entered the House: `Sixty years ago, I survived a Chinese attack in North Korea and have said that I haven`t had a bad day since. But after today, I may have to revise that statement.`
If the lawmakers on the committee find Rangel guilty, punishment could range from a report criticizing his conduct to a reprimand or censure by the House to a vote to expel him.
The congressman was forced to step his post as head of the Ways and Means Committee, where he oversaw policy on taxes, trade, health care, Medicare and Social Security, earlier this year, after the ethics committee admonished him for taking two trips to the Caribbean for conferences were paid for with corporate money obtained by sponsorships solicited by the New York Carib News paper, the presenters of the Caribbean Business conference.