Charlie Rangel Looks to Put Ethics Probe Behind Him, Get on With Campaign
By Jeff Mays
In an event that was part pep-rally and part stump speech combined with a defense of his name, Rangel said that he deserves an immediate hearing on the ethics charges and urged reporters to be fair when writing about his predicament.
“Fired up!” Rangel yelled to supporters as he entered the room to begin the press conference.
“What I gather from people in the street and all over the country is that they don’t like the way I have been treated,” Rangel said while surrounded by 25 supporters holding "Charlie Rangel for Congress" signs.
“Resignation is not an option,” he added.
Rangel, who is facing 13 charges from the house ethics committee, said that he has posted a full response to the charges on his website and that he deserves a chance at a fair hearing to clear his name.
“How long will my friends have to say: ‘What about Charlie Rangel?'” he said.
“It bothers me when people think I’m not entitled to a hearing,” Rangel added about calls for him to step aside.
He said he was not against a plea deal but felt that the process of plea bargaining and being forced to admit to something that you feel you did not do just to get a deal is wrong. Rangel's ethics trial is slated to start in September.
“I’m not against back door dealing that has dignity,” Rangel said. “If that’s not possible, let’s get it all out.”
Rangel said he believes so many politicians came out to his birthday fundraiser because they, too, are concerned about the process of how ethics violations are tried. Rangel said he has the wherewithal to raise the money he has used in his defense, but that a newer member of congress may not.
“As much as my ego would like me to believe they came out for Charlie Rangel I believe they came out for the process,” Rangel said. “I’d like to believe the governor knows what the press can do….I’d like to believe our next governor knows what the press can do.”
At the same time, the 20-term congressman admitted that he has made mistakes with the handling of his personal affairs but those mistakes don’t necessarily rise to the level of corruption.
“A public official has a much higher standard. Negligence and carelessness is no excuse,” Rangel said.
Rangel said he believes he is the best candidate to represent one of the smallest, but most diverse congressional districts in the country. He said there might be better candidates for his job “but none of them are in this race.”
Rangel said that his election victory 40 years ago against Adam Clayton Powell came under similar circumstances but that he will not make the mistakes Powell made.
"His biggest mistake was not coming home to campaign," Rangel said. "I may be making a lot of mistakes, but that's not one of them."
Rangel tried to talk about some of the issues facing his district such as the need for jobs, better healthcare, and housing, but many of the questions from reporters were about the ethics charges.
After today’s press conference, Rangel said he will no longer entertain questions about the charges.
“Ask the guys in charge in Washington when I’m going to get a hearing,” he said.
Rangel volunteer Lermond Mayes, 35, a handyman, said many in Harlem are suspicious of the charges against Rangel and he suspects Rangel will win the primary.
“The community has always said he’s not getting a fair shake,” said Mayes. “With the amount of time Charlie Rangel has served in Congress he has become powerful. They just don’t want to see him in that position.