A member of the committee that investigated Rep. Charles Rangel's alleged House ethics violations disagrees with the scope of the charges brought against the 20-term congressman.
Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), a member of the Congressional Black Caucus who
also served on the investigatory subcommittee that authored the 13
violations of House rules Rangel (D-N.Y.) allegedly committed, said that the Harlem lawmaker did not act in a corrupt or self-serving manner and should be served only with a letter of reproval from the House.
"I do not condone improper conduct by any member of the House but the circumstances of this case are not consistent with the precedents of the Standards Committee where a member has received or the committee has recommended a reprimand," Scott wrote in a letter dated Aug. 12.
The House ethics committee on Monday made public a 65-page dissent authored by Scott on the same day Rangel was brought to public trial by an adjudicatory subcommittee. The panel is now deliberating the charges against him.
Rangel made waves by walking out of the trial after he accused the committee of violating his due process rights by depriving him of legal representation. Committee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) said that Rangel failed to take advantage of chances to obtain counsel.
The congressman has maintained that he did not violate House rules, but only made sloppy mistakes.
Scott disputed the committee's recommendation that Rangel be formally reprimanded by the House, saying that a lesser penalty (a letter of reproval) would better fit his violations and bring an end to the saga more quickly.
Scott, who formerly served on the ethics committee, says that Rangel did not violate House rules by using a rent-controlled apartment as a campaign office. He also claimed that Rangel is only guilty of sloppiness for soliciting donations for the proposed "Rangel Center" at the City College of New York and mistakes on his tax returns and financial disclosures, which include back taxes owed on a Dominican villa.
The Virginia lawmaker said that those actions did violate House rules, but that Rangel did not intend to personally benefit from them.
"There is no evidence that Representative Rangel attempted to conceal a conflict of interest or engaged in any of the corrupt conduct that has traditionally warranted a reprimand," Scott wrote. "Representative Rangel's conduct is the result of good faith mistakes and misunderstandings of legal standards and the scope of his official duties. His violations of House rules were caused by his sloppy and careless record-keeping, but were not corrupt."
Scott's language echoes the chief counsel of the ethics committee who tried the case against Rangel, Blake Chisam, who said at the trial that he does not believe Rangel engaged in corruption. But Chisam still believes Rangel violated all the House rules he is accused of breaking.
"I see no evidence of corruption. It's hard to answer the question of personal financial benefit. The short answer is probably no," Chisam said. "I believe that the Congressman quite frankly was overzealous in many of the things that he did and at least sloppy in his personal finances."