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Democrat Rangel charged with 13 ethics violations

Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.) acknowledges that he has made mistakes but insists that he is not corrupt. The House voted Thursday to censure the congressman.

"Mr. Rangel was given multiple opportunities to settle this matter. Instead, he chose to move forward into this public trial phase," Rep. Jo Bonner (R-Ala.), the co-chairman of the investigative panel, said at the hearing.

Democrats on the subcommittee also expressed dismay with Rangel's tactics. Rep. Gene Green (Tex.), the Democrat who led the investigation with Bonner, released a four-page statement listing various ways Rangel caused "significant delay," including filing multiple motions that were not signed under oath. Bonner and Green will act as the prosecution if the trial phase goes forward in September.

The hearing, which took place inside the cavernous $621 million Capitol Visitors Center, set the stage for what could be the first ethics trial since then-Rep. James Traficant (D-Ohio) was expelled after being found guilty of corruption in 2002.

Rangel's first alleged transgressions began more than 10 years ago, when he filed financial disclosure forms that did not include more than $80,000 in rental income from a New York brownstone he owned. He also did not report rental income from a Caribbean villa that he used as a rental property. During the two-year investigation, Rangel filed amended reports outlining more than $600,000 in previously undisclosed income and assets,

the investigation found.

The most serious allegation involved his efforts to create the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at the City College of New York. The probe alleged that Rangel frequently solicited donations from lobbyists and companies with interests before the Ways and Means Committee.

The subcommittee said Rangel asked his congressional staff to produce "a list of potential donors to the Rangel Center." It continued: "The work was done on property of the House of Representatives, on official House time and with the use of official House resources." The report said Rangel also sent letters on congressional letterhead to potential donors, along with a brochure requesting a gift of $30 million or $6 million per year for five years.

In 1996, Rangel signed a lease for a rent-stabilized apartment when he already had three apartments in the same Harlem building, a violation of local zoning laws. Rangel said his son, Steven, would live there, but Steven Rangel never moved in. The elder Rangel used the fourth apartment as an office for his reelection campaign and political action committee, violating the lease.

"We live in a time where public skepticism about the institutions in our country is very high," said Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), chairman of the subcommittee "jury" conducting the trial. "It has been the goal of our Ethics Committee throughout this Congress to by our actions rebuild and earn trust by the public and our colleagues."

Republicans made no secret of their desire to use Rangel's troubles against Democrats, criticizing them for not living up to their pledge to "drain the swamp" of corruption in Washington. "This is a sad day when the U.S. House of Representatives has to sit in trial of one of its own members, and it is one of the biggest broken promises of Speaker Pelosi," said Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio).

Democratic leaders said the proceedings against Rangel prove the system is working. "Drain the swamp we did, because this was a terrible place," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). "Are there going to be individual issues to be dealt with? Yes. I never said that there wouldn't be."

Staff writer Carol D. Leonnig contributed to this report.

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