A two-year ethics scandal that saw embattled Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., lose his powerful position among House Democrats but not his bid for reelection will come to a climax when he faces an ethics panel Monday on Capitol Hill.
The ethics trial promises to be a spectacle. Rangel, 80, a former New York City prosecutor, likely will represent himself as he faces the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct. The proceeding is formally called an adjudicatory hearing.
Rangel fired his legal team in late October, drawing into question whether the trial would be delayed. But the flamboyant Rangel is expected on Capitol Hill Monday to seize the opportunity to clear his name.
Rangel stands accused of 13 counts of violating House rules but has emphatically denied any wrongdoing. Rangel allegedly failed to reveal more than half a million dollars in assets on financial disclosure forms, improperly obtained four rent-controlled apartments in New York City and failed to disclose financial arrangements for a villa at the Punta Cana Yacht Club in the Dominican Republic.
Perhaps the most serious charge surrounds Rangel's fundraising activities for the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at City College of New York. Rangel allegedly used his status as then-chairman on the House Ways and Means Committee to raise money for the center from corporations and foundations that had business before the House of Representatives and his committee.
Rangel stepped down as chairman of the committee last March. Democrats then lost control of the House in elections earlier this month, so even if his name is cleared, Rangel could not retake his gavel.
The adjudicatory subcommittee is holding the hearing "to determine whether any counts in the Statement of Alleged Violation regarding Representative Rangel have been proven by clear and convincing evidence."
The conclusion of the trial, which is expected to last at least all of next week, will not be the end of the story.
First, the subcommittee must conduct deliberation and vote on each of the 13 counts alleged in the Statement of Alleged Violation. The subcommittee then will send a report of its findings to the full ethics committee.
The full committee then will hold a public sanctions hearing, and if any violation is found, the panel will vote on a sanction recommendation, and write and transmit a report to the full House of Representatives.
The ethics cloud has hung around Rangel for years and he has never shied away from publicly defending himself. When the charges brought by the ethics subcommittee became public over the summer, he delivered a bold, emotional, impromptu speech on the House floor, imploring his fellow lawmakers to expedite the ethics hearing and give him the opportunity to clear his name before the congressional midterm elections.
"I'm 80 years old. Hey, I don't want to die before the hearing," Rangel said in August, expressing frustration at the drawn-out length of the ethics inquiry. "People I represent are entitled to know who their congressman is.
"Don't leave me swinging in the wind," Rangel said during the 40-minute speech. "I am not going away. I am here!"
He drew a rebuke for the August speech from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who issued a statement afterward stating that the ethics committee "is the proper arena for ethics matters to be discussed," not the House floor.
The proper arena opens Monday.
Rangel's troubles in Washington have not affected him back home in New York, where he has represented Harlem for decades. He easily won a crowded Democratic primary race in September and picked up almost 80 percent of the vote in the general election Nov. 2. The Harlem native defeated Republican Michael Faulkner and Independent Craig Schley to win reelection to his 21st term in the House.
Rangel's trial will be followed later this month by a similar proceeding for Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., beginning on Nov. 29.
Waters faces charges she broke House conduct rules through her role helping a minority-owned bank obtain federal bailout money during the financial collapse in September 2008. Waters' husband was a former board member of the bank and held more than $300,000 in stock at the time of the requested meeting.