Rangel vows ethics charges fight
Democrats worry trial in Congress could hurt them in midterm voting
WASHINGTON — Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., hunkered down Friday as he prepared to stage a public battle over allegations that his financial dealings broke House ethics rules. His determination to fight the charges has left Democrats fearful that an ethics trial, planned for mid-September, could wind up tarnishing the whole party just weeks before the midterm elections.
Rangel, 80, dismissed any talk of resignation. In a news conference Friday at his office in New York, an unrepentant Rangel asked his constituents to withhold judgment, while he acknowledged that the lengthy inquiry was taking an emotional toll. “I’m in the kitchen, and I’m not walking out,” he said.
In private, Democratic aides and political strategists shook their heads at the prospect of a public reading of Rangel’s alleged misdeeds, first at a televised preliminary hearing set to begin Thursday and continuing with the ethics trial in September after Congress returns from a nearly seven-week recess.
“The time has come for Charlie Rangel to think more about his party than about himself. Each and every day that a trial goes on would cost Democrats more seats,” said a Democratic chief of staff to one of the dozens of incumbents who are facing difficult re-election campaigns. Like most Democratic staff and strategists, the aide requested anonymity because of the political sensitivity of criticizing Rangel, who until his woes had been a beloved figure in the Democratic caucus.
Rangel and the House ethics panel have been exploring a settlement to the numerous accusations against him, which would allow the 20-term congressman to avoid an ugly public trial and further political damage to Democrats nationally.
Talks broke down Thursday after more than a month, according to lawyers involved in the negotiations, prompting the usually secretive committee to begin the process to hold rare public proceedings on ethics charges against a member.
In interviews Friday, the lawyers described the negotiations as con- tentious and said a defiant Rangel continued to frustrate committee members with his unwillingness to admit wrongdoing in connection with several of the accusations against him. But they also said they were open to reaching a deal.
For two years, committee members have been examining, among other charges, Rangel’s failure to report income from a villa in the Dominican Republic, acceptance of four rent-stabilized apartments and use of his office to preserve a loophole for an oil company executive who pledged a $1 million donation for a new public policy center to be named for him.
An unrepentant U.S. Rep. Charles B. Rangel, D-N.Y., asked at a news conference in his hometown office Friday for constituents to withhold judgment.