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RealClearPolitics Politics Nation Blog

 

Blog Home Page --> Ethics

Massa Resigning Monday

After just more than a year in office, Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.) announced today he will resign from his seat to spare himself an ethics committee investigation of allegations he harrassed one of his congressional staffers.

"During long car rides, in the early hours of the evening, late at night and always in private, I know that my own language failed to meet the standards that I set for all around me and myself," said Massa. "I fell short and I believe now, as I have always believed, that it is not enough to simply talk the talk, but rather I must take action to hold myself accountable."

Massa initially denied a report that an ethics investigation had been launched on Wednesday as he announced he would not run for re-election, but House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer's office said that evening that he knew of the allegation and had pushed for the ethics committee to be informed as well. The panel confirmed the investigation yesterday.

A special election has not been set yet, but if one is held before November, it could come on Sept. 14 when regular primaries will be held. Other states, such as Pennsylvania and Hawaii, are holding special elections on primary days to save the state the cost of holding another election.

As for who is interested in the seat, The Hotline has a quick rundown of the situation:

Before the news of Massa's resignation hit today, candidates were already emerging for the open seat contest. The GOPer on the top of the party's wish list -- Monroe Co. Exec. Maggie Brooks (R) -- appears ready to make a decision within the week. If she doesn't run, there are a bevy of legislators ready to jump into the contest.

But Corning Mayor Tom Reed (R) has been in the race for months, and appears loathe to exit. (For more, check out our earlier coverage of the emerging GOP field)

On the Dem side, Massa's pick appears to be Hornell Mayor Shawn Hogan (D), but he has yet to decide on a bid. Assemb. David Koon (D), though, has told county chairs he'll run. And several other legislators are also taking a look at the contest.

Ethics Committee Confirms Massa Investigation

The House ethics committee confirmed today that it is looking into allegations made against Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.), who announced yesterday he won't return to Congress next year due to health concerns related to cancer.

However, it was reported that Massa was also leaving amid an allegation that he harrassed a male staffer in his office. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer's office released a statement last night confirming that Hoyer knew about the allegations and insisted they be reported to the ethics committee.

The ethics panel, referred to officially as the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, released a brief statement today saying it is "gathering additional information concerning matters related to allegations involving Representative Eric Massa."

Massa denied the charges yesterday during a conference call with reporters to announce he would not seek re-election to a second term.

Hoyer Confirms Massa Ethics Charge

Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.) denied yesterday that reported ethics charges factored into his decision not to run for a second term in Congress this year, citing a third recurrence of cancer and doctor recommendations that he slow down. In a short statement to reporters over a conference call yesterday, Massa said articles referring to the rumors were "unsubstantiated without fact or backing."

However, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer's office confirmed last night that the charges do exist and that he knew about it.

Here is the statement from Hoyer spokeswoman Katie Grant:

"The week of February 8th, a member of Rep. Massa's staff brought to the attention of Mr. Hoyer's staff allegations of misconduct that had been made against Mr. Massa. Mr. Hoyer's staff immediately informed him of what they had been told. Mr. Hoyer instructed his staff that if Mr. Massa or his staff did not bring the matter to the attention of the bipartisan Ethics Committee within 48 hours, Mr. Hoyer would do so. Within 48 hours, Mr. Hoyer received confirmation from both the Ethics Committee staff and Mr. Massa's staff that the Ethics Committee had been contacted and would review the allegations. Mr. Hoyer does not know whether the allegations are true or false, but wanted to ensure that the bipartisan committee charged with overseeing conduct of Members was immediately involved to determine the facts."

Politico reported yesterday that the ethics charges dealt with allegations Massa "made unwanted advances toward a junior male staffer."

Rangel Requests 'Leave of Absence'

Embattled New York Rep. Charles Rangel (D) told reporters this morning that he has requested a "leave of absence" from his post as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. Rangel was admonished by the House ethics committee on Friday for accepting corporate-paid travel and remains under investigation by the panel for other possible transgressions.

From the New York Times:

"I have, this morning, sent a letter to Speaker Pelosi asking her to grant me a leave of absence until such time as the Ethics Committee completes its work," the congressman said in a brief meeting with reporters.

He declined to answer questions in any detail, however, saying that to do so would raise issues that "would distract me from what I have to do in terms of completion of the president's health bill as well as making sure our committee gets a good jobs bill."

Republicans had been pressing for a vote to remove him from his chairmanship. Mr. Rangel said he acted in order to avoid forcing his colleagues to defend him during an election year.

The move saves Speaker Pelosi from the uncomfortable position of either removing a senior House member from his chairmanship or defending a member under multiple ethics investigations.

UPDATE: Pelosi released the following statement: "Chairman Charlie Rangel has informed me of his request for a leave of absence from his duties and responsibilities as Chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means. I will honor his request. I commend Chairman Rangel for his decades of leadership on jobs, health care, and the most significant economic issues of the day."

House Ethics Panel: Rangel Broke Rules

The House Ethics committee has found that New York Rep. Charles Rangel (D) broke House rules by accepting trips to the Caribbean that were paid for by a company that lobbied Congress, the Associated Press reported first. The report could have an effect on his status as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.

Rangel told reporters Thursday evening that he believes he will only be "admonished."

In its report, released Thursday evening, the panel's chair and ranking member wrote that Rangel was the only one of the six members being investigated who acted knowingly and violated rules. Rangel violated the "House gift rule" for accepting payment for travel.

Officers and employees at Carib News, the organization that hosted the members and accepted corporate contributions to help pay for it, were found to have given false or misleading statements to the ethics panel, which has referred their actions to the Justice Department.

"It is the intention of the Committee that publication of this Report will serve as a public admonishment by the Standards Committee of Representatitve Rangel," the report reads.

Rangel continues to be under investigation for other potential improprieties not connected with the Caribbean trips, including some tax-related issues. As Ways and Means chairman, he helps write the country's tax laws. He's been under investigation since mid-2008, when he called for an ethics investigation on himself.

The 79-year-old has represented Harlem since 1970. He spent Thursday at the Blair House attending President Obama's health care summit.

Democrats Have Yet To 'Drain the Swamp'

When the Democrats reclaimed Congress in the 2006 midterm, then-House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi pledged to "drain the swamp" of Congressional ethics violations that allegedly went uninvestigated under Republican rule. On the evening of Nov. 26, 2008 -- Thanksgiving eve - Pelosi, now House Speaker, released a statement to the press regarding the ethics investigation of Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), in which she stated, "I have been assured the report will be completed by the end of this session of Congress, which concludes on January 3, 2009. I look forward to reviewing the report at that time."

Now, more than a year later, as the 1st Session of the 111th Congress crawls to a close, the investigation into multiple potential improprieties by the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee remains incomplete. Many, including watchdog groups like the Sunlight Foundation and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, are left wondering how exactly the ethics situation in Congress has improved.

"I don't think things have changed in the way the ethics committee operates -- it's still very slow going, and they're loath to hold members of Congress responsible for misconduct," CREW executive director Melanie Sloan told RealClearPolitics. "The committee is nonpartisan, and in being nonpartisan they do not like to go after members of either party."

As more evidence was brought to light, the committee was forced to expand its investigation at least two times this year; in announcing an expansion of its Rangel investigation in early October, the House ethics committee said it had already issued "close to 150 subpoenas; interviewed approximately 34 witnesses resulting in over 2,100 pages of transcripts; reviewed and analyzed over 12,000 pages of documents; and held over 30 investigative subcommittee meetings."

However, Pelosi and Democratic leadership have swatted away any attempts to temporarily remove Rangel -- who among other things is being investigated for cheating on his taxes -- from his chairmanship of the tax-writing committee until the ethics investigation is complete. Republicans, who were swept from power in the 2006 elections partly because of their own ethics troubles, have continually criticized Democrats for this.

"To allow Mr. Rangel to continue to serve as Chairman of the very committee with IRS oversight...and with no end in sight to his ethics investigation, sends a clear message to the American public that this government refuses to abide by the same laws they impose on the working people of this country," Rep. John Carter (R-Texas) said in October.

Continue reading "Democrats Have Yet To 'Drain the Swamp'" »

Former Aide Challenging Rangel

Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) is already dealing with an ethics committee investigation and now faces trouble in his quest for re-election next year. Vince Morgan, a former special assistant and campaign director to Rangel, told the New York Times that Rangel "is going to have to take responsibility" for his financial dealings, which have been under scrutiny for more than a year.

"He got caught with his hand in the cookie jar," said Morgan, who hesitated to challenge Rangel. "I loved him ... He is very affable and he is a warm person, which is why I am hesitant about bad-mouthing him."

Rangel has represented the 15th District of New York -- Harlem -- since his first election in 1970. Chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, part of the inquiry into Rangel is his failure to accurately list all of his assets on his tax returns.

Morgan worked for Rangel from 2001-2003.

Ethics Committee Expands Rangel Investigation

The House Ethics committee announced today it will expand its investigation of Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) to determine if he "violated the Code of Official Conduct or any law, rule, regulation or other standard of conduct applicable to his conduct in the performance of his duties or the discharge of his responsibilities with respect to all Financial Disclosure Statements and all amendments filed in calendar year 2009 by or on behalf of" Rangel.

The committee said that in its year-long investigation into Rangel, it has so far issued 150 subpoenas, interviewed 34 witnesses for more than 2,100 pages of transcripts, reviewed more than 12,000 pages of documents, and held more than 30 investigative subcommittee meetings.

A Republican resolution introduced in the House yesterday to remove Rangel from his role as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee was shot down by Democrats in a legislative maneuver. It was the second resolution filed this year by Rep. John Carter (R-Texas), with both ending similarly.

Republicans have already jumped on the Ethics committee's announcemnt, calling on Speaker Pelosi to remove Rangel until the committee has completed its investigation.

"Given the expanded investigation announced today, it is past time for Speaker Pelosi to insist that Chairman Rangel step aside until the Ethics Committee completes its work," Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a released statement within minutes of the Ethics committee's announcement. "The American people won't stand for having a chairman of the House's tax-writing committee who is under investigation for not paying his taxes. What more has to happen before Speaker Pelosi does the right thing?"

Carter Again Seeks To Remove Rangel From Ways & Means

Rep. John Carter (R-Tex.) is again working to remove Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) from his post as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee until the House ethics committee completes its investigation into his potential impropriety.

Carter read aloud his privileged resolution on the House floor at 12:55 p.m. today, and by rule it will be voted on. However, his previous resolution, introduced in February, was tabled by Democrats and today's vote appears to fare a similar outcome.

"We cannot tolerate a double standard in this country, one for the common man and another for the rich and powerful," Carter said in a press release this morning. "To allow Mr. Rangel to continue to serve as Chairman of the very committee with IRS oversight, without paying a nickel in penalties, and with no end in sight to his ethics investigation, sends a clear message to the American public that this government refuses to abide by the same laws they impose on the working people of this country."

An investigation into Rangel has continued for more than a year now, as the ethics committee first announced on Sept. 24, 2008, the formation of an investigative subcommittee to look into his dealings. The committee announced a separate inquiry in June for trips he has taken to the Caribbean.

The full text of the resolution can be read here.

UPDATE (1:51 p.m.): The House voted to refer the resolution to the ethics committee, ending the chance for any debate. The resolution is now dead as the committee has no mandate to do anything with it.

Two Democrats voted with the Republicans to not refer the motion to committee: Reps. Gene Taylor and Travis Childers, both of Mississippi. Childers represents a swing district, but Taylor is regularly re-elected with well more than 60% of the vote.

"These votes show that support for the Democratic Leaders' decision to sweep this matter under the rug is starting to crack," said Michael Steel, spokesman for Minority Leader John Boehner.

Continue reading "Carter Again Seeks To Remove Rangel From Ways & Means" »

Another Ethics Probe for Rangel

The House Ethics committee has opened an investigation into trips taken to the Caribbean by Rep. Charles Rangel (N.Y.) and four other House Democrats.

The official release from the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct states that a newly formed investigative subcommittee will look into "officially-connected travel in 2007 and 2008 that was sponsored, funded or organized by an organization known as Carib News or Carib News Foundation."

Along with Rangel, the inquiry will include four other members of the Congressional Black Caucus: Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (Mich.), Donald Payne (N.J.), Bennie Thompson (Miss.), and Virgin Islands Delegate Donna Christensen.

This marks the latest in a run of ethics issues for Rangel, who chairs the powerful Ways and Means Committee. Previous reports indicate potential financial disclosure issues and allegations that he helped obtain a tax loophole for a donor to the Charles B. Rangel Center at the City College of New York.