By Alexander Bolton - 07/31/10 03:15 PM EDT
Democratic leaders and major party donors plan to hold a lavish 80th birthday gala for Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) at The Plaza Hotel in Manhattan next month, despite 13 ethics charges pending against the veteran lawmaker.
Lobbyists and other party donors received invitations this week to join Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and New York Gov. David Paterson (D) at one of New York’s finest hotels to celebrate Rangel’s birthday.
Some guests received the invitation a day after the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct issued a report accusing Rangel of 13 ethics violations.
Some Democrats think Rangel has become politically radioactive, and the invitation lists various enticements to get people to show up to his birthday bash and contribute to his campaign.
Aretha Franklin, the “Queen of Soul,” will sing to guests, who will pay $200, $500, $1,000 or $2,500 for tickets. The money will go to the Rangel Victory Fund, a campaign account.
The 2010 Rangel Birthday Gala is planned for Aug. 11 despite the fact that Rangel’s actual birthday is June 11.
The event chairmen include Black Entertainment Television founder Robert L. Johnson and Ken Raske, president and CEO of the Greater New York Hospital Association, and Rabbi Arthur Schneier, a prominent advocate for human rights and religious freedom.
It remains to be seen whether the leaders of the New York Democratic Party will stay in Rangel’s corner when a growing number of Democrats in Washington are backing away from him.
President Obama gave Rangel a nudge toward retirement Friday.
Obama said the ethics charges against Rangel were “very troubling.”
“He’s somebody who’s at the end of his career,” Obama said in a CBS Evening News interview. “I’m sure that what he wants is to be able to end his career with dignity. And my hope is that happens.”
Several House Democrats such as Rep. Mike Arcuri (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Betty Sutton (D-Ohio) have called on Rangel to resign. Others, such as Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D), who is running for Senate in Indiana, have returned past campaign donations from Rangel.
Schumer and Gillibrand are running for reelection this year but without serious opposition. So far they have not abandoned Rangel.
Schumer gave $10,000 from his leadership political action committee to Rangel’s campaign account at the end of June.
The calls for Rangel’s resignation intensified after the House ethics committee charged Rangel Thursday with 13 counts of ethics violations.
A report from the panel’s investigative subcommittee accused Rangel of seeking contributions for the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service from lobbyists with business before the Ways and Means Committee when he served as chairman. It also faulted Rangel for accepting a rent-controlled apartment in Manhattan and failing to report rental income on a villa in the Dominican Republic.
A Democratic lobbyist invited to the event said the Democratic political hierarchy in New York is still behind Rangel.
“Charlie Rangel is going to get reelected unless he gets expelled from Congress,” said the lobbyist. “This shows his level of support in New York.”
The hosts of the event include Peter Angelos, a trial lawyer and owner of the Baltimore Orioles; Gerald McEntee, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; and David Boies, who represented Vice President Al Gore in the 2000 Florida recount.
“If three-quarters of the people on the host committee show up, this event is a huge success,” said the Democratic lobbyist.
Rangel is raising the money for New York’s Democratic primary, scheduled for Sept. 14. He is facing four challengers.
A Public Policy Polling survey released earlier this month showed Rangel winning less than 40 percent of the vote in a primary race. It showed his job approval at 49 percent. Adam Clayton Powell IV, Rangel’s closest competitor, drew 21 percent support.