The House censured Rep. Charles H. Wilson (D-Calif.) yesterday for financial misconduct, though he steadfastly has denied guilt and said he had already lost everything with his defeat last week in his bid for nomination for a 10th term.
Wilson, who was reprimanded two years ago for receiving gifts from South Korean businessman Tongsun Park, was accused by the House ethics committee of receiving $10,500 in gifts from a person having a direct interest in legislation before Congress and of converting abut $25,000 in campaign funds to his personal use. Both acts violate House rules.
The House rejected, 308 to 97, a motion by Rep. Paul N. McCloskey Jr. (R-Calif.) to reduce the punishment from censure to reprimand, and then adopted the censure resolution by a voice vote. Wilson stood in the well of the House at the front of the chamber as Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill Jr. (D-Mass.) read the resolution.
McCloskey said argued against censure on the ground that the evidence against Wilson was not "clear and convincing." He said the money from the business could have been a permissible loan, as Wilson and the businessman contended, rather than a gift, and that the campaign funds could have been put to offices use, such as sending out newsletters or taking extra trips home for constituent work, rather than to personal use.
Wilson told the House: "I am not guilty of any of the charges." He added that it was unfair to apply post-Watergate rules of ethics to events that allegedly occurred in 1971 and 1972.
Wilson had sent a letter to colleagues urging that there be no punishment because he has been punished enough -- even if he were guilty. He said his legal expensives have been in excess of $120,000, his reputation and that of his family have been damaged beyond repair and "I have lost my seat in the House. There is no more for me to lose."
The House dropped a second recommendation that Wilson be stripped of his postal subcommittee chairmanship because leaders of both parties argued that this matter should be left to each party to protect the rights of both parties. Democrats have adopted a rule that took away his chairmanship when censure was voted.
Only Rep. Gladys N. Spellman (D-Md.), among local House members voted to lessen the punishment from censure to reprimand.