The House ethics panel decided not to take action on one of the charges against Rep. Charles Rangel because prosecutors and the courts should handle it -- the first formal indication the Harlem Democrat could face criminal charges, it was revealed yesterday.Granted, that's even less than a wrist-slap, but why isn't Rangel brought up tax-evasion charges? If anyone else skipped out on their taxes and wasn't a privileged member of the ruling elite they'd surely face time and much large fines.
A nine-page report posted on the committee's Web site summarizing the case says the potentially criminal conduct relates to Rangel's use of the congressional "frank" -- free official use of the mail for members of Congress -- to solicit millions in cash for the Charles B. Rangel Center at CCNY.
The panel disclosed it was "taking no action [on one of the 13 counts against Rangel] . . . because the Adjudicatory Subcommittee believes the jurisdiction to charge and find a violation of this criminal statute more properly lies with the executive branch and judicial branch," according to the report.
There were originally 13 charges against Rangel, and the panel on Tuesday found him guilty of 11 ethics violations and acquitted him on one count, leaving one charge unaccounted for.
It had been thought the committee chose to combine two of the original charges into a single count -- but the report yesterday revealed the panel simply didn't vote on one of the counts.
The full House ethics committee meets today to recommend Rangel's punishment, which is expected to be either reprimand or censure, but not the most severe -- expulsion.
Franking regulations clearly state that use of the free mail to solicit funds "on behalf of any organization" is prohibited -- and even single out solicitations "for the purpose of supporting any charitable, education, religious or political program" as "not frankable."
The fines for violating federal law on franking run up to $5,000.
Why is Rangel above the law?