Harlem Democrat Sells All 800 Tickets, Some At $2,500 A Pop

Updated 8/12/10 7:10 a.m.

NEW YORK (CBS 2/1010 WINS) — Despite a growing political scandal, about 800 people attended the birthday bash for embattled Congressman Charles Rangel at The Plaza Hotel on Wednesday night.

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Among the partiers were many New York politicians, making it seem like an election night celebration, reports CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer.

Rangel’s motto should be “if you hold it they will come,” because despite Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s joke about some officials not wanting to come and be seen with the ethically toxic congressman, Rangel’s 80th birthday fundraiser drew the crème de la crème of the local political world.

“Now I know a few people couldn’t be here tonight because, as they tell it, either they had to get a haircut unexpectedly or they were sure they’d have a headache,” Bloomberg said.

The powers that be were falling all over themselves to help the 20-term congressman raise money for his legal fund and his re-election campaign. They had names like Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and gubernatorial wannabe Andrew Cuomo and former mayor David Dinkins packed like sardines into the ballroom of the Plaza. New York Gov. David Paterson served as the event’s emcee.

“We’re all here to wish a happy birthday to Charlie Rangel,” Cuomo said.

The Rev. Al Sharpton blamed the Harlem Democrat’s ethical problems on the media.

“You have started and executed a political crucifixion, but stay tuned for the political resurrection,” Sharpton said.

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But Rangel, who just Tuesday railed at Congress for not supporting him, was clearly overjoyed at the turnout. His campaign told 1010 WINS’ Al Jones that all the tickets were sold, with some paying up to $2,500 a ticket. Rangel even sent out recorded messages urging people to come.

With the ethics case hanging over his head and a Democratic primary on Sept. 14, Rangel needed to raise the cash to pay his lawyers and campaign in his district. He made that clear Tuesday when he took to the House floor in an extraordinary and emotional 37-minute speech in which he said that Democrats, nationally, want him to quit because they fear a public trial will move seats into the Republican column.

“If I can’t get my dignity back here, then fire your best shot in getting rid of me through expulsion,” Rangel said.

But the 20-term the congressman, who actually turned 80 on June 11, made it clear he won’t be going quietly and that he wants a quick resolution.

“Hey, don’t leave me swinging in the wind until November,” Rangel said. “I’m not going away. I am here.”

He was certainly there Wednesday night in Manhattan, telling the crowd: “This damn sure ain’t no funeral.”

The emotional high point of the night was Dionne Warwick pointing too all of Rangel’s friends and singing her signature song, “That’s What Friends Are For.”

It’s been an emotional several days for Congressman Rangel and Thursday promises to be another. Sources tell CBS 2 he’s planning a press conference in the morning where he’s formally going to turn his back on Washington, focus on his district, and, he says, win re-election to the House.

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