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Punishment phase for Rangel set for Thursday

By: The Associated Press//November 17, 2010

Punishment phase for Rangel set for Thursday

By: The Associated Press//November 17, 2010//

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — It took House investigators 2½ years and a jury of congressional peers two days to conclude Rep. Charles Rangel of New York violated House rules.

A decision on his punishment will be much quicker. Possible sanctions include a House vote deploring his conduct, a fine and denial of certain privileges.

The House ethics committee set a hearing Thursday on the appropriate punishment for Rangel, a Democrat who formerly wielded great influence as chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee.

That’s only two days after an ethics panel of eight House members, sitting as a jury, found that Rangel’s financial and fundraising conduct violated ethical standards.

Rangel, who has been without a defense team for weeks, can waive the hearing and ask the committee to deliberate his punishment.

The ethics committee chairman, Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California, said Tuesday night that the panel will vote on a recommended punishment after the hearing ends.

In rapid order:

—The jury panel that found Rangel guilty on 11 counts of ethical wrongdoing will issue what could be a stinging report explaining its conclusions.

—The sanctions hearing will follow.

—The full ethics committee will recommend a punishment to the House, possibly a censure vote deploring Rangel’s conduct. Rangel also could be fined and lose some House privileges.

Rangel complained Tuesday that the trial committee was unfair because it refused to delay the proceeding and give him time to raise money to hire new attorneys. But he also turned his attention to the possible punishment he could face.

“I can only hope that the full committee will treat me more fairly and take into account my entire 40 years of service to the Congress before making any decisions on sanctions,” Rangel said.

For Rangel, who is 80 and has served in the House for 40 years, the last eight months have been especially difficult.

In early spring, he relinquished his chairmanship after the ethics committee — in an unrelated case — found he improperly allowed corporations to pay for two trips to the Caribbean.

He then sought unsuccessfully to have his trial in the current case be held before his contested primary. The ethics committee refused, although Rangel won.

But on Monday, he no longer wanted a quick resolution to the case. He pleaded — again unsuccessfully — with the jury panel for time to start a legal defense fund. His previous defense team, Rangel said, abandoned him after he paid them some $2 million but could not afford an estimated $1 million more to keep fighting the case.

Rangel’s downfall, in part, came in the way he solicited money for a New York college center designed as a monument to him. There also was his decade of misleading annual disclosures of his income and assets and his use of a subsidized New York apartment — designated for residential use — as a campaign office.

The conduct often cited by critics was his failure to report income to the IRS from a unit he owned in a Dominican Republic resort — showing the chairman in charge of tax legislation had shortchanged the IRS.

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