Democrats Distance Themselves from Rangel

Two House Dems have called for the former representative's resignation.

ByABC News
July 28, 2010, 8:32 AM

July 28, 2010 -- Several Democrats facing competitive elections began distancing themselves Tuesday from embattled New York Rep. Charles Rangel as a potentially damaging hearing on whether he violated House ethics rules drew near.

As Rangel's lawyers tried to negotiate a settlement to avoid a public ethics trial — set to begin Thursday — Democrats attempted to shift focus away from vulnerable lawmakers under pressure from GOP challengers over the Rangel controversy.

"I think everyone would like to have it go away in the sense that this is not a pleasant process," said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md. Hoyer was peppered with questions about Rangel at a news conference designed to detail the party's message for the upcoming recess period in August.

An ethics subcommittee charged Rangel, a Democrat, with unspecified violations July 22 after an 18-month investigation into his fundraising, taxes and financial disclosure statements. The charges will be unveiled at the hearing — the first step in a process unfolding before the midterm elections.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., chairwoman of the House ethics committee, denied that lawmakers were working on a plea deal with Rangel to avoid a trial. She told the Associated Press that Rangel's lawyers are negotiating with the committee's non-partisan staff.

If the negotiations result in an agreement, the committee could vote to accept it at the meeting this week.

Democratic leaders, including Hoyer, said the Rangel investigation demonstrates the ethics review process works, but a growing number of Democratic candidates are nevertheless trying to keep the imbroglio from becoming a factor in their races.

Idaho Rep. Walt Minnick became the second House Democrat to call for Rangel to resign, following Rep. Betty Sutton, D-Ohio, who made that request last week. Both are in competitive races this year, according to the non-partisan Cook Political Report.

"I always prefer to let voters decide whether or not someone should keep his or her seat," Minnick said in a statement. "However ... provided the facts are as alleged, I think it's clear that he should resign."