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To counter controversy, Rep. Charles B. Rangel hits pavement in Harlem

Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel said Friday he looked forward to clearing his name next week at a meeting of the House ethics committee, which has indicated the 40-year congressional veteran will be charged with serious violations. (July 23)

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By Nia-Malika Henderson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 25, 2010

Embattled New York Rep. Charles B. Rangel, dogged by allegations of ethical lapses, spent his weekend shoring up support in Harlem and Washington, strolling the streets of his district and meeting with members of the Congressional Black Caucus, who were on an annual retreat in Manhattan and are among his biggest backers.

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At a health-care forum at Harlem Hospital Center, the Democrat brushed aside questions about whether he was damaging his party and whether he would step aside after an investigative subcommittee found that he broke unspecified rules.

"The press acts like they are the committee, telling me, 'Why don't you step aside?' Well, it wouldn't really be the American thing to do," he said. "I think I owe it to the process to find out first what the investigative committee finds out. Maybe, just maybe, I have evidence to prove that it's not substantive."

For the past two years, the investigative panel has looked into whether Rangel, a ranking Democrat, improperly used his congressional seat to solicit money for a college center named in his honor, failed to disclose personal assets and failed to pay taxes on a Caribbean villa.

One Democrat, Rep. Betty Sutton of Ohio, has called for his resignation. Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.) of the Congressional Black Caucus cautioned against a rush to judgment.

"Haven't we learned anything this week about jumping to conclusions? The railroading of Shirley Sherrod at USDA should be a lesson learned about hasty judgment and action based on inadequate, even false information," he said in a statement. "That lesson must be applied to the current case of congressman Charlie Rangel."

Aides said Rangel has spent the past few days reaching out to supporters in New York and recently held a conference call with party leaders, including former mayor David Dinkins.

He faces three challengers in the September primary, including New York Assembly member Adam Clayton Powell IV, whose father Rangel defeated in 1970.

"The election is coming up in September, and that's really what counts. I've enjoyed a lot of love and affection and support," Rangel said. "I'm glad this is coming to a head before the elections."

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