Republicans accuse Democrats of delaying Rangel, Waters ethics trials

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.
By Paul Kane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 28, 2010; 8:36 PM

Republicans on the House ethics committee accused Democrats on Tuesday of stalling the trials of Reps. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.) and Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), and they demanded that both cases be heard publicly before the Nov. 2 midterm elections.

Rangel and Waters, facing separate charges involving personal conflicts of interest, have maintained that they are not guilty of most of the allegations, and they have called for a speedy trial before subcommittees. Almost two months after filing formal charges against the lawmakers, the full ethics committee has not set a timeline for those trials, and the delay has angered Republicans.

"Representatives Rangel and Waters deserve the opportunity to publicly and timely address the charges against them. . . . The chairwoman has repeatedly refused to set either the Rangel or Waters trial before the November election," said a statement from Rep. Jo Bonner (Ala.), the ranking Republican on the ethics committee, and his four GOP colleagues on the panel.

The Republicans' implication was that Democrats are delaying the trials for fear of political fallout before the midterms.

(READ RELATED ARTICLE: Rangel faces first jury - the voters)

Aides to Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), the ethics chairman, did not respond to requests for comment. But some Democratic aides said the GOP letter was itself politicizing the cases, arguing that a truly independent jury would not clamor for a trial to begin unless it had made up its mind about how it intended to rule.

Rangel, whose legal team declined to comment, faces charges of violating 13 congressional rules related to his fundraising efforts for a private college wing named in his honor. He is also accused of failing to disclose hundreds of thousands of dollars in personal investments and income.

Waters is accused of having her office improperly assist a troubled bank, in which her husband was a large investor, during the financial crisis of 2008, after which the bank received $12 million in bailout funds. She was traveling Tuesday and unavailable to comment.

(READ RELATED ARTICLE: Bank with ties to congresswoman received special treatment)

The House is expected to adjourn this week and not return until mid-November. The Republicans said in their statement that such an adjournment would give the committee time to conduct the trials unimpeded.

However, at least two members of the trial subcommittee in the Waters case - Rep. Ben Chandler (D-Ky.) and Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) - face difficult reelection campaigns, and a prolonged trial in Washington would complicate their campaigning back home. Even so, Dent joined his GOP colleagues in calling for a prompt start to the trials.

(PHOTOS: Maxine Waters faces ethics trial)

"Members of the committee have repeatedly expressed their willingness and desire to move forward with public trials of these matters and have repeatedly made themselves available to the chairwoman for October settings," the Republicans wrote.

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