Rangel and Waters’ ethics trials not expected until after November election

Watchdog groups expect the upcoming ethics trials for Reps. Charles Rangel
(D-N.Y.) and Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) to take place after the November
election to avoid political fallout.

“I think ethics hearings shortly before the midterm elections
overly politicizes the ethics process, which in the long term, is not
in anyone’s interest,” said Melanie Sloan, executive director of
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

{mosads}The ethics committee, according to its rules, must turn over all evidence
it plans to present in a trial to the member charged at least 15 days before
the beginning of the trial. Even if the panel handed over their evidence
to Rangel and Waters when they return this week, the trial could not begin
until the beginning of October, one month before the general election and
when members plan to be home to campaign.

Craig Holman of Public Citizen also predicted the adjudicatory hearings
would occur when members return for a short lame-duck session. In many
ways, though, the prospect of the trials has already become campaign
fodder so the damage has been done, he said.

“Both of these pending trials should have been concluded months ago,” he
said. “The House ethics committee stumbled miserably in these cases,
allowing them to be delayed and delayed, until they have become hot
election issues.”

Rangel and Waters, as well as their constituents, deserve a more speedy
resolution, Holman argued.

“Given the very partisan and political nature of Congress, however, it is
worrisome to allow Congress to conduct trials of potential
ethics violations very near the election,” he said. “This could set
a troubling precedent for future partisan actions.”

During an organizational meeting for the adjudicatory committee,
which took place before the House left for its August recess,
ethics committee members pointed the finger at Rangel for dragging out
the investigation by failing to respond promptly to requests
for information. Members were silent on what caused Waters’s probe
to continue until July other than her refusal to accept punishment and publicly

Rangel and Waters both rebuffed attempts to settle their cases and have
chosen to aggressively battle the charges in a public trial. The ethics
committee has indicated the trials would take place sometime this fall –
setting up an unprecedented scenario in which two Democrats would be tried
before their peers in close proximity to an election in which Republicans
are expected to gain seats and perhaps win back the majority.

The ethics committee did not respond to an inquiry about the timing of the

Already depressed about the potential for a Republican
takeover, Democratic leaders have been wringing their hands over Rangel’s
and Water’s decision as it ensures the ethics charges will
continue to play out in the media until the election.

Waters is accused of using her position to help a bank in which
her husband owns stock win millions of dollars in bailout funds. After
a 21-month investigation, the ethics panel accused Rangel of failing
to pay taxes on rental income from a Dominican Republic villa;
of improperly using his office to solicit millions of dollars in
funds for an education center bearing his name at the City College of
New York; and of improperly using a rent-stabilized apartment for
his campaign offices.

Waters has already made it through California’s primary and does not face a
serious general election challenger.

Rangel still has to get by Tuesday’s Democratic primary in
New York. A poll released in July that was taken before the charges
against Rangel were made public showed Rangel with 39 percent of the vote
and 21 percent backing state assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell IV.

During a lengthy 90-minute press conference outlining her defense, Waters
downplayed the possibility that her ethics trial, which could happen
around the same time as Rangel’s, would hurt Democrats in the November
midterm elections. 

“As far as I am concerned, most of it is speculation,” she
said. “Each member has to be concerned that they are representing
their constituents — that they are doing the best job they can do …
[and] that they are honoring the law and living by the law.”


Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

See all Hill.TV See all Video

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video