Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the ranking member on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said, “If lawmakers are found guilty of or admit to violations of House ethics rules, having their pension revoked should be a consequence that the ethics committee should be allowed to impose.”
In 2008, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) released a report calculating the benefits of members’ pensions. According to that data, Rangel’s pension is worth about $150,000 per year.
Rangel is not one of the wealthiest members of Congress. While other lawmakers report assets worth tens of millions of dollars, Rangel has filed required disclosure forms with the House that estimate his net worth between $566,000 and $1.2 million.
There is nothing in House rules stipulating the loss of pensions for members who break ethics regulations.
However, lawmakers convicted of felonies for crimes committed after September 2007 will lose their congressional pension.
That law went into effect in September of 2007 in the wake of ethics scandals involving former Reps. William Jefferson (D-La.), Bob Ney (R-Ohio) and Duke Cunningham (R-Calif.).
Attorneys who have represented clients before the congressional ethics committees said if Rangel admits to intentionally breaking ethics rules, those public statements may encourage federal prosecutors to go after the 20-term lawmaker.
Legal authorities speculated that may be at least part of the reason why Rangel has refused to admit he knowingly violated rules cited in the recent 13-count Statement of Alleged Violations (SAV), which was produced after a two-year ethics investigation.
He could face federal wire fraud charges related to his tax issues, according to individuals familiar with the findings released by the investigative subcommittee.
“If Rangel is found guilty [by the ethics adjudicatory subcommittee] of violating all these statutes, the Justice Department may come in and say, ‘This is pretty much a slam-dunk for us; we’re going to bring forward a case,’ ” a source requesting anonymity said.
For that reason, at least one lawmaker was wary of Rangel taking a deal in which he admitted culpability with the ethics panel.
Fellow Congressional Black Caucus member Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) said last week, “I think that the idea that Mr. Rangel should be required or requested to admit an intentional activity could trigger a different set of statutes on the ground in New York — that I think people have to be sensitive to.”
Still, a deal is technically possible for the embattled Rangel as well as for Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), who has likewise requested an ethics trial instead of agreeing to admit wrongdoing.
Last Thursday, ethics panel Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) indicated that Rangel had had his chance for a reaching a deal.
McCaul said the New York legislator was “given the opportunity to negotiate a settlement during the investigation phase. We are now in the trial phase.”
Negotiations between Rangel’s attorneys and ethics committee attorneys can still take place.
Rep. Gene GreenRaymond (Gene) Eugene GreenBottom line Texas New Members 2019 Two Democrats become first Texas Latinas to serve in Congress MORE (D-Texas), chairman of the panel that brought charges against Rangel, said Friday, “We had negotiations for a period of time, and there was give-and-take on lots of things, so I assume everything is subject to negotiation.”
“You can always make a deal,” former prosecutor and ex-ethics committee Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio) said.
But for a settlement to occur, it would require the support of a majority of the equally divided bipartisan ethics committee — meaning at least one Republican.
According to sources familiar with recent negotiations, Rangel has refused to admit that he intentionally violated House rules.
Jackson hopes that “cooler heads will prevail” and a deal will be struck in order to avoid a public trial.
“I would hope that this sordid episode would have an ending that would not cast an aspersion that could be deeply problematic, given Mr. Rangel’s service to our nation over four decades,” Jackson said.