NEW YORK (CBS 2 / WCBS 880) — Congressman Charles Rangel, one of the most influential men on Capitol Hill, was convicted Tuesday by his own colleagues.
The Harlem lawmaker was found guilty on 11 counts of breaking House ethics rules — and he now he faces punishment, reports CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer.
Even though he just won re-election to a 21st term, Rangel’s conviction was not only a blow to his career, but another setback for Democrats who lost control of the House in the midterm elections.
Republicans were quick to make political hay.
“The committee found conviction by clear and convincing evidence,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif.
Sources told CBS News a hearing to decide Rangel’s punishment could begin as early as Thursday. But as for the congressman, he’s already thinking ahead. Sources told Kramer he’d like his peers to make him ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee, the very committee he chaired until his ethics problems arose.
On Monday Rangel decided to boycott his ethics trial because the panel wouldn’t delay it to allow him to hire a new lawyer. Their findings would have left his ears burning as he was convicted 11 times.
“In violation of the code of conduct reflecting discredibly upon the House,” Lofgren said.
WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond reports
Rangel’s misdeeds included failing to pay taxes on his Dominican Republic vacation home, using a rent-regulated Harlem apartment as a campaign office, and using House stationery to seek donations for a college center named after him.
“I’m hopeful as we move forward with the matter [and] that at the end of the day we will be able to begin an era of transparency and accountability, a new era of ethics that will restore the credibility of this House,” said Texas Rep. Michael McCaul, the ranking GOP member of the Ethics Subcommittee.
Walking down a back corridor in the Capitol on Tuesday, Rangel was asked if he had a reaction to the conviction.
“No, I really haven’t studied it,” he said.
But later he issued a blistering statement charging he was denied due process and right to counsel.
“The committee’s findings are even more difficult to understand in view of yesterday’s declaration by the committee’s chief counsel, Blake Chisam, that there was no evidence of corruption or personal gain,” Rangel said.
Many of Rangel’s constituents were still in his corner on Tuesday.
“Why would they go ahead and convict him when he said he wanted to get a lawyer and he’s just not ready yet? Doesn’t everybody get a chance to get a lawyer?” Harlem resident Violet Butler said.
“I think it’s not right because the man has been doing a lot out here in Harlem,” added Marvin Brockington.
“I think he should have been convicted a long time ago, really. I think he’s just sweating out the system, milking the system,” said resident Guy Scannavino.
“We love Rangel uptown. We hope he stays even though he got convicted,” Davaughn Moorer said.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)