WASHINGTON — Several Democrats in the House of Representatives are calling on Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., to resign instead of facing a public ethics inquiry that could damage the party's chances at the polls this fall.
Rangel stepped down this spring as the powerful chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee after he was admonished for violating House rules by taking corporate-sponsored trips to the Caribbean.
Rangel reportedly is in negotiations to settle the charges, but if he doesn't, on Thursday he'll face a trial-like session of a special House subcommittee.
The exact nature of the ethics violations he faces won't be revealed until the subcommittee meets, although Rangel has faced a lengthy probe for 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.
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This week, Democratic Reps. Walt Minnick of Idaho and Rep. Betty Sutton of Ohio called on Rangel to quit.
"I think it was appropriate for Representative Rangel to step down from his post as a committee chair pending the investigation, but I always prefer to let voters decide whether or not someone should keep his or her seat," Minnick said. "However, now that the investigation is complete, and provided the facts are as alleged, I think it's clear that he should resign from Congress."
Rangel on Tuesday took time to attend a Congressional Black Caucus briefing on post-earthquake rebuilding efforts in Haiti.
"If I'm not here for the whole hearing, well, the newspapers may have explained that," Rangel told fellow lawmakers, likely referring to reports that he's been trying to settle the case.
The 80-year-old Rangel, first elected to Congress in 1970, is a master fundraiser who's helped other House Democrats with their campaigns. Many candidates have since returned those contributions or given them to charity, but the National Republican Campaign Committee continues to call for campaigns to return the money Rangel helped steer their way.
The House ethics panel, known officially as the Committee on Standards and Official Conduct, hasn't convened its adjudicatory subcommittee since 2002, when it handled the case of former Rep. James Traficant, D-Ohio.
Traficant was under investigation in connection with a federal bribery, racketeering and tax evasion conviction. He was expelled from Congress, served seven years in prison and unsuccessfully tried to get on the ballot to run for the House this year.
(Lesley Clark and William Douglas contributed to this article.)
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