WASHINGTON — Embattled Rep. Charles Rangel, the former chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, will face a trial-like session of a special House subcommittee next week on at least one ethics violation charge, a House investigatory subcommittee decided Thursday.
Congressional aides said that the exact nature of the violation won't be revealed publicly until the special eight-member House adjudicatory subcommittee hears Rangel's case next Thursday.
The convening of an adjudicatory subcommittee of the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct is rare. The last time it was done was 2002 to handle the case of former Rep. James Traficant, D-Ohio, who was under investigation in connection with bribery, racketeering and tax evasion convictions.
Traficant was expelled from Congress, served seven years in prison and unsuccessfully tried to get on the ballot to run for the House this year.
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Rangel, D-N.Y., has been under a lengthy probe by the ethics committee for a series of allegations that include failing to report hundreds of thousands of dollars in income and assets, improper use of several rent-controlled apartments in his Harlem district, fundraising efforts for a college center that bears his name, and failing to pay taxes on property he owns in the Dominican Republic.
Rangel's spokesman, Emile Milne, did not return phone calls seeking comment, but Rangel told reporters he was looking forward to battling the allegations, according to CNN.
"It gives me an opportunity to respond to my friends and constituents who have supported me for 40 years," CNN reported Rangel saying. "All I've been able to give them is 'trust me.' "
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., didn't comment directly on the ethics committee's action. Nadeam Elshami, a Pelosi spokesman, would say only that "the action today would indicate that the independent, bipartisan Ethics Committee process is moving forward."
House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, used the occasion to slam Pelosi. The ethics committee's announcement, he said in a statement, "is a sad reminder of Speaker Pelosi's most glaring broken promise, to 'drain the swamp' in Washington."
At least one government watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said the ethics committee's move is more evidence that Rangel, an 80-year-old, 20-term House member, needs to quit.
"Today's action demonstrates that the notoriously lax Ethics Committee has found substantial reason to believe that Rep. Rangel has violated federal law, House rules, or both," CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan said in a written statement.
"Now the question is whether Rep. Rangel will resign or endure a public trial that promises to be filled with detailed and undoubtedly embarrassing revelations of wrongdoing. Rep. Rangel has toughed it out as long as he could, the time clearly has come for him to resign."
With Republicans making his travails a campaign issue and fellow Democrats returning his campaign contributions, Rangel gave up the Ways and Means gavel last March after the ethics committee publicly admonished him for taking two corporate-sponsored trips in 2007 and 2008, though the committee said it had no proof that the knew about the corporate funding.
The timing of the ethics committee's action could affect Rangel's re-election bid. He faces a field of challengers in a September Democratic primary, including Adam Clayton Powell, IV, son of the late Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., who was once excluded from Congress over allegations of ethics violations.
The elder Powell was eventually reinstated by the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled his exclusion unconstitutional, but Rangel defeated him in 1970. Rangel also defeated the younger Powell in 1994.
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