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Thursday, November 18, 2010

House Ethics Committee Recommends Censure for Rangel

George Wenschhof

The full House Ethics Committee has voted 9-1 to Censure Representative Charles Rangel (D-NY). Their recommendation will now go before the full House, where a majority vote is needed. It is expected to be taken up after Thanksgiving by the House. In addition to either approving or disapproving this recommendation, the House still has the option to approve a lesser reprimand or even expel Rangel.

This vote comes after the legal counsel to the committee Blake Chisom, recommended Censure.

Interestingly, a look back through history of reprimands to members of the House reveals only five members received the most severe punishment of being expelled and they were all Democrats. Three of them were Representatives from southern states who were expelled for taking up arms against the Union during the Civil War.

The other two were much more recent with one being Michael Myers (D-Pa.) who was convicted of bribery in the Abscam scandal. The other was James Traficant (D- Ohio) who in 2002 was convicted of bribery and racketeering. Traficant, after serving seven years in prison was back on the ballot for the 2010 mid term elections.

The other options available to discipline a member are either a formal Censure or Reprimand; both of which require a majority vote. The only difference between the two is with a Censure, the member must stand in the well of the House while the resolution is read to them.

Twenty-two members have been Censured with the most recent occurring in 1983. In 1983, there were two members censured and they were Gerry Studds (D-Mass.) and Daniel Crane (R-Ill.). Both were caught up in a sex scandal involving congressional pages.

Only nine members have been reprimanded with the most recent being Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) who last year yelled out "You Lie" during President Obama's State of The Union Address.

Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.),one of many Republicans considering a presidential run in 2012 was reprimanded back in 1997 for use of a tax exempt organization for political purposes.

Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who is still serving today, was reprimanded back in 1990 for use of office to help a friend fix parking tickets.

All of which makes you wonder why Representative Rangel emptied his campaign account by spending close to two million in campaign funds to defend himself against ethics charges when he was not facing any civil charges.

While, eighty year old Representative Charles Rangel will have to endure some embarrassment from this decision, he will be remembered for his long service in congress. Should he decide to run for reelection in 2012, the well liked Rangel will easily win another term.


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