Ran­gel vows ethics charges fight

Democrats worry trial in Congress could hurt them in midterm vot­ing

Austin American-Statesman - - SATURDAY BRIEFING - By Paul Kane and Carol D. Leon­nig

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.

Mary altaffer

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.

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