The House ethics committee recommended, 10 to 2, yesterday that Rep. Charles H. Wilson (D-Calif.) be censured by the House and stripped of a subcommittee chairmanship for financial misconduct.
It would be a relatively heavy penalty, apparently because Wilson is the first member to be found guilty of misconduct twice by the committee. The usual penalty for House rules violations has been the lesser punishment of reprimand. Never before has the committee recommended taking away a member's chairmanship.
Two years ago Wilson was reprimanded by the House after the ethics committee concluded he had made false statements about taking cash from South Korean businesman Tongsun Park. Now he has been found guilty on eight counts of converting nearly $25,000 of campaign funds to personal use and of taking $10,500 in gifts during the early 1970s from a businessman with a direct interest in legislation before Congress.
Wilson's lawyer, Walter Bonner, called the penalty "outrageously unfair and unjust" and said Wilson will fight it as violating the spirit of the statute of limitations against prosecution of minor offenses committee more than five years ago.
Wilson is also expected to challenge the right of the House to take away his postal operations subcommittee chairmanship. He will say it was not given him by the House but by Democratic members of the Post Office and Civil Service Committee and therefore the House can't take it away.
Wilson is in line, by seniority, to become chairman of the full committee next year. But House Democrats have never given a chairmanship to a member found guilty of violating House rules. Wilson also faces a hard primary reelection fight.