House panel finds Rangel guilty of ethics violationsBy the CNN Wire StaffNovember 16, 2010 1:08 p.m. EST
Washington (CNN) -- A House ethics subcommittee found longtime Democratic Rep. Charlie Rangel guilty Tuesday on multiple violations of House rules.
The subcommittee, according to California Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren, the ethics committee chairwoman, found "clear and convincing" evidence of guilt on 11 of 12 counts, including failing to pay taxes on a home in the Dominican Republic, misuse of a rent-controlled apartment for political purposes and improper use of government mail service and letterhead.
The veteran New York congressman was cleared of a charge relating to an alleged violation of the House gift ban.
Rangel had been facing 13 charges; the committee combined two of them.
The full ethics committee -- known as the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct -- will now recommend a punishment for Rangel to the House of Representatives. The penalty can can range from a fine to expulsion. Most observers believe Rangel is likely to be reprimanded but not expelled.
R. Blake Chisam, the committee's chief counsel, told subcommittee members in a trial hearing Monday that there was no proof of corruption or evidence Rangel was trying "to personally enrich himself." But, Chisam said, Rangel "quite frankly was overzealous" in many instances and "at least sloppy in his personal finances."
The subcommittee rejected Rangel's request to delay the hearing until a new defense team was assembled.
"Fifty years of public service is on the line. And I truly believe that I am not being treated fairly," he declared. "I deserve a lawyer."
Rangel told the subcommittee members he has already spent $2 million defending himself from the charges and has been advised the trial could cost him another $1 million.
He complained that he was not being given enough time to raise funds to hire new lawyers because the committee was rushing to complete its work before the conclusion of the current lame-duck Congress.
Rangel's original defense team left him in September.
The congressman later released a statement calling the committee's decision to proceed without delay a violation of "the most basic rights ... guaranteed to every person under the Constitution."
"The [ethics committee] has deprived me of the fundamental right to counsel and has chosen to proceed as if it is fair and impartial and operating according to rules, when in reality they are depriving me of my rights," he said.
Lofgren replied that it was Rangel's responsibility to assemble his legal team. She also noted that Rangel had received advice numerous times from the committee on how to raise funds for his defense.
Several subcommittee members, however, blasted Zuckerman Spaeder, the law firm originally representing Rangel.
It is "fundamentally unfair" for lawyers to abandon a client on the eve of a trial, said North Carolina Democratic Rep. G.K. Butterfield, a former trial judge. "That would not have happened in my courtroom."
Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vermont, expressed his "astonishment at Zuckerman Spaeder for taking the money ... and then kicking their client to the side of the road when it came time for the actual hearing."
In a statement issued in response to the criticism, a spokeswoman for the firm said it "did not seek to terminate the relationship [with Rangel] and explored every alternative to remain as his counsel consistent with House ethics rules prohibiting members from accepting pro bono legal services."
Numerous House Republicans -- as well as some House Democrats -- have called for Rangel to resign because of the alleged ethics violations. Rangel has said he has made mistakes.
Rangel offered no immediate response to Tuesday's subcommittee ruling. Republicans, however, were quick to characterize it as an indictment of the Democrats' stewardship of the House.
The ruling "is the nail in the coffin of what Nancy Pelosi promised would be the 'most ethical congress in history,'" National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Ken Spain said. "The arrogance of power that defined the Democrats reign over the House of Representatives was overwhelmingly rejected on November 2, and today's ruling is further proof that the American people were right."
Rangel, who was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1970, was forced to step down as chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee because of the allegations against him.
Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters of California is also scheduled to have an adjudication hearing with the House ethics committee this month, on November 29. Waters has denied the allegations against her, which include steering federal bailout money to Massachusetts-based OneUnited Bank -- in which her husband had a financial stake.