House panel calls for rep­ri­mand in Ran­gel ethics case

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Lau­rie Kell­man

WASHINGTON — The sub­com­mit­tee that in­ves­ti­gated Rep. Charles Ran­gel, D-N.Y., has rec­om­mended that the em­bat­tled law­maker face a rep­ri­mand, a mild form of pun­ish­ment sim­i­lar to that given to Rep. Newt Gin­grich, R-Ga., when he was re­buked in 1997.

Pres­i­dent Barack Obama on Fri­day called ethics charges against Ran­gel “very trou­bling” and said he hopes the long­time law­maker can end his ca­reer with dig­nity.

Sev­eral House Democrats went fur­ther, flat-out urg­ing the New York con­gress­man to re­sign.

“He’s some­body who’s at the end of his ca­reer,” Obama said in an in­ter­view that aired Fri­day on “CBS Evening News with Katie Couric.” “I’m sure that what he wants is to be able to end his ca­reer with dig­nity. And my hope is that it hap­pens.”

Obama, speak­ing on the is­sue for the first

Con­tin­ued from A time, praised the 20-term law­maker for serv­ing his con­stituents well but called the more than one dozen tax and dis­clo­sure charges against him “very trou­bling.”

As House Democrats headed home for the Au­gust re­cess, they wres­tled with how to han­dle the mat­ter in their dis­tricts ahead of the midterm elec­tions.

Some Democrats pri­vately said they took a small mea­sure of com­fort in one rev­e­la­tion. Rep. Gene Green, D-Hous­ton, told re­porters Fri­day that his four-mem­ber in­ves­tiga­tive sub­com­mit­tee did not seek the high-level pun­ish­ments of cen­sure or ex­pul­sion, opt­ing for a mi­dlevel sanc­tion that re­quires the full House to ap­prove it but car­ries no other penalty.

“The rec­om­men­da­tion we had was a rep­ri­mand,” Green said, “and I’ll let the full com­mit­tee make that de­ci­sion.”

But state­ments con­tin­ued to trickle out that left no doubt that at some point, Democrats would have to look out for No. 1 — them­selves.

“If at the trial’s con­clu­sion Mr. Ran­gel is found guilty by his peers, then he should in­cur the full pun­ish­ment al­lowed by the House, in­clud­ing re­moval from of­fice,” said Rep. Bobby Bright, D-Ala.

Repub­li­cans, mean­while, raced ahead with plans to make Ran­gel the face of cor­rupt Washington un­der the rule of Democrats who had vowed to clean up Congress.

For his part, Ran­gel met with per­haps his staunch­est sup­port­ers, mem­bers of the New York del­e­ga­tion, in the stately Capi­tol par­lor named for the Ways and Means Com­mit­tee, which he headed un­til March.

“He in­di­cated there was some slop­pi­ness” in his of­fi­cial pa­pers, Rep. Edol­phus Towns, D-N.Y., told re­porters, “but, you know, there’s no crim­i­nal­ity here.”

House rules and cred­i­bil­ity — not crim­i­nal­ity — were the rea­sons cited by more than a half-dozen House Democrats known to have called for Ran­gel’s res­ig­na­tion by late af­ter­noon Fri­day.

A House panel on Thurs­day made pub­lic for the first time 13 charges of mis­use of of­fice and tax and dis­clo­sure vi­o­la­tions against Ran­gel, 80, as it opened the trial phase of the ethics pro­ceed­ings against him.

If Ran­gel and the ethics com­mit­tee do not set­tle the case, it will go to a pub­lic trial this fall, at the height of an elec­tion sea­son in which ev­ery mem­ber of the House, 36 in the Se­nate and the Demo­cratic ma­jori­ties of both cham­bers are on the line.

Ei­ther con­di­tion­ally or out­right, Democrats call­ing for Ran­gel’s res­ig­na­tion in­cluded Rep. Wal­ter Min­nick of Idaho, Betty Sut­ton of Ohio, John Yar­muth of Ken­tucky, Zack Space of Ohio, Ann Kirk­patrick of Ari­zona and Mary Jo Kil­roy of Ohio.

“Too many politi­cians, both Democrats and Repub­li­cans, have fallen vic­tim to the idea that they are ‘dif­fer­ent’ than reg­u­lar folks and noth­ing could be fur­ther from the truth,” Kirk­patrick said in a state­ment.

“It is our job as mem­bers of Congress to hold each other ac­count­able to a higher stan­dard re­gard­less of party,” she added. “If the se­ri­ous charges against (Ran­gel) are ac­cu­rate, he needs to re­sign.”

Ran­gel de­nies the charges and says the in­dict­ment re­leased Thurs­day con­tains fac­tual er­rors.

Back home in Ran­gel’s Har­lem district, he re­mains pop­u­lar with many vot­ers and could win re-elec­tion if his po­lit­i­cal ca­reer sur­vives the ethics in­quiry, though one woman said Fri­day that she had mixed feel­ings af­ter read­ing news ac­counts of the al­le­ga­tions against him.

“I don’t think he is 100 per­cent hon­est, but he’s no worse than other politi­cians,” said Charynda Morez, a col­lege stu­dent who was buy­ing gro­ceries at a deli.

She said that she didn’t know how he should be pun­ished but that Ran­gel should re­sign any­way.

Demo­cratic lead­ers are urg­ing their mem­bers to cast the elec­tion as one about a choice be­tween their party, which un­der Obama has over­hauled health care and Wall Street, and a GOP-tea party com­bi­na­tion that wants to roll back Demo­cratic ac­com­plish­ments.

House Repub­li­cans rel­ished us­ing Ran­gel to change the sub­ject — es­pe­cially if he does not reach a set­tle­ment with the ethics com­mit­tee. A pub­lic trial equates to a free me­dia pre­sen­ta­tion of the mis­deeds of one of the most se­nior Democrats in the House.

The House Repub­li­cans’ cam­paign arm re­leased a list of Democrats who have not re­turned cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions they re­ceived from Ran­gel dur­ing their ca­reers and said those law­mak­ers would face ques­tions about the mat­ter from con­stituents dur­ing the Au­gust break.

“It’s very dif­fi­cult for Democrats to make the case that this is a ‘choice’ elec­tion when the na­tional head­lines are fo­cused around an ethics scan­dal that has clearly im­pacted the party in power,” said Ken Spain, a spokesman for the Na­tional Repub­li­can Cam­paign Com­mit­tee.

Rep. Charles Ran­gel faces 13 ethics charges.

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