Rangel to face House trial on ethics charges 

New York's embattled Rep. Charlie Rangel will face a public trial this month before eight lawmakers who accuse him of violating the rules of the House.

The Committee on Standards of Official Conduct announced it has issued a "statement of alleged violation" against the 20-term Democrat.

Though the committee did not disclose the charges, they are likely relating to unpaid taxes and accusations that Rangel had improperly leased several rent-controlled apartments in his district. Rangel also faces allegations that he used his influence as lawmaker and chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee to help a company that had donated $1 million to a school in New York named after him.

Rangel said he opposes the ethics committee ruling, and his opposition automatically triggers a public hearing, the likes of which has not taken place since 2002, when then-Rep. James Traficant, D-Ohio, went on trial in the House after being convicted of corruption charges in federal court. The panel of lawmakers found Traficant guilty of ethics violations and voted to expel him from the House.

Rangel, who earlier this year was forced to give up the chairmanship of the powerful tax-writing panel, says he believes the outcome will be different for him. He told reporters he is looking forward to proving he is innocent of the charges.

The hearing will begin July 29 and will be presided over by ethics Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif.

According to a statement released by Lofgren and ethics ranking member Jo Bonner, R-Ala., the panel will "determine whether any counts in the statement of alleged violation have been proved by clear and convincing evidence and to make findings of fact."

If found guilty, Rangel faces punishment ranging from a written admonishment to expulsion from the House.

The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington on Thursday called on Rangel to resign in light of the House ethics ruling.

"Today's action demonstrates that the notoriously lax Ethics Committee has found substantial reason to believe that Rep. Rangel has violated federal law, House rules, or both," CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan said. "Now the question is whether Rep. Rangel will resign or endure a public trial that promises to be filled with detailed and undoubtedly embarrassing revelations of wrongdoing. Rep. Rangel has toughed it out as long as he could, the time clearly has come for him to resign. He can no longer effectively represent the citizens of New York."

sferrechio@washingtonexaminer.com

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