10. Charlie Rangel’s Circus Of Scandal
The Charlie Rangel scandal went on for two years (and his offenses stretched back far longer than that), but it came to a head in 2010, culminating in a media circus and leading to Rangel’s censure.
Here’s how everything went down. In 2007, the New York Post reported that Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) solicited funds through his think tank from corporations that have interests before Congress. The next summer, the New York Times reported on Rangel’s use of a rent-controlled luxury apartment as a campaign office, which could be considered an illegal contribution by the landlord (Rangel later closed the office). Rangel was also called out for failing to report rental income from his Dominican Republic vacation property, along with a slew of other violations.
The House Ethics Committee investigated Rangel throughout 2009 and 2010, constantly expanding the investigation to include more and more of Rangel’s campaign and financial records. Throughout, his district stood behind him, as evidenced by the reaction at an event in Harlem back in March:
“I didn’t intend for this to be ‘I love Charlie Rangel’ but these are my district leaders,” Rangel told the Daily News after the breakfast. “I have been embarrassed about the number of standing ovations.”
Still, the Ethics Committee pressed on. On November 15, the committee convened to determine Rangel’s guilt. Rangel himself appeared alone, with no counsel or supporters, and his appearance was brief but unforgettable:
The political theater began shortly after Rangel winked at reporters – and then startled the panel by announcing that he was excusing “myself from these proceedings.”
Rangel said his previous attorneys dumped him last month after being paid nearly $2 million in legal fees. He said he needed to set up a legal defense fund because he was broke.
“Fifty years of public service is on the line,” the 80-year-old lawmaker said, his voice rising. “I fought in wars, I love this Congress, I love this country. I think I’m entitled” to more time to set up a defense fund.
Then he left. The committee found him guilty of 11 ethics violations and recommended censure. Rangel was the first House member censured since 1983, a punishment that was little more than the proverbial slap on the wrist:
Beyond the stain on his career, the censure will have little, practical effect. Rangel’s seat appears safe as long as he wants it. He received nearly 80 percent of the vote last month when he won his 21st term, and easily won his primary.
Still, wasn’t the whole thing a hoot?