Rangel, Waters Ethics Trials Set for Late November

ABC News’ John R. Parkinson reports:

When the House of Representatives returns to Washington for a lame duck session after the Nov. 2 congressional midterm elections, one of the first orders of business will be settling the alleged ethics violations of embattled Reps. Charles Rangel (D-NY) and Maxine Waters (D-Calif.).

Rangel, a 20-term lawmaker from Harlem, will face the ethics committee first in a proceeding formally called an adjudicatory hearing, on November 15, the first day the House is expected back in session after the elections. Waters, who is seeking her 11 th term this fall, is set to begin her hearing November 29, the chairwoman of the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct announced this evening.

According to the statement released this evening, the adjudicatory subcommittees will hold the hearings “to determine whether any counts in the Statement of Alleged Violation regarding Representative Rangel or Representative Waters have been proven by clear and convincing evidence.”

During these hearings, Rangel and Waters will be permitted to appear before the committee to defend themselves. Members of the adjudicatory subcommittees that separately investigated each lawmaker will then vote whether Rangel and Waters are guilty of their respective charges.

The announcement comes in response to a statement September 28 by the five Republican members of the committee, who accused Chairwoman Lofgren and the majority members of the committee of stalling the proceedings until after the congressional midterm elections. Both Rangel and Waters themselves had also publically called for the committee to begin their cases prior to the Nov. 2 election.

“It is in the best interest of transparency and fairness to the American people, Representatives Charlie Rangel and Maxine Waters, and other Members of the U.S. House of Representatives, that the House Ethics Committee stop stalling the resolution of the Rangel and Waters matters and complete these public trials prior to the November election,” Jo Bonner (R-Alabama), the top Republican on the committee, stated last week. “Members of the Committee have repeatedly expressed their willingness and desire to move forward with public trials of these matters and have repeatedly made themselves available to the Chairwoman for October settings…Representatives Rangel and Waters deserve the opportunity to publicly and timely address the charges against them.”

But today, Lofgren, a Democrat from California, denied the minority’s request that the trial be held prior to the election.

“At the request of the minority members of the committee, I had agreed to work together to establish schedules,” Lofgren stated Thursday. “Last week’s unprecedented statement by the minority members of the Committee, in contrast to their prior requests and ongoing discussions, called upon the Chair to unilaterally establish the schedule, as the Committee rules allow.”

Lofgren said that substantial actions must be taking before the public hearings begin after the election.

“The nonpartisan Committee staff who bear the burden of proof to establish the facts alleged in the Statement of Alleged Violation must prepare their case and be prepared to meet a higher burden of proof than that used in the investigative subcommittee phase,” Lofgren stated. “Evidence to be used at the hearing must be shared between lawyers for the committee and the respondent Member of Congress. Any objections raised by either party should be resolved, as well as any other procedural or evidentiary issues, before the hearing. Committee rules also require that subpoenas issued to witnesses must be served sufficiently in advance of the hearing to allow witnesses reasonable time to prepare for the hearing and retrain counsel.”

On August 10, Rangel delivered a bold, emotional impromptu speech on the House floor, imploring his fellow lawmakers to expedite the hearing and give him a chance to clear his name.

Rangel, 80, who was formerly chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, stands accused of 13 counts of violating House rules and has denied any wrongdoing. He stands accused of failing to reveal more than half a million dollars in assets on financial disclosure forms; improperly obtaining four rent-controlled apartments in New York City; and failing to disclose financial arrangements for a villa at the Punta Cana Yacht Club in the Dominican Republic.

Perhaps the most serious allegations surround his fundraising activities for the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at City College of New York. Rangel allegedly used his status on the Ways & Means Committee to raise money for the center from corporations and foundations that had business before the House and his committee.

Among the charges Waters faces is that she allegedly broke House conduct rules for her role helping a minority-owned bank obtain federal bailout money during the financial collapse in September 2008. Waters' husband was a former board member of the bank and held more than $300,000 in stock at the time of the requested meeting.

“After an investigation that has lasted over a year, I am eager to have the opportunity to clear my name. I would have liked for this matter to be resolved before the election in November and have repeatedly called for a hearing to be scheduled as soon as possible,” Waters said in a statement tonight to ABC News. “I will defend myself vigorously because I have not violated any House rules, and I will not allow anyone to suggest my life’s work has been motivated by anything other than the public interest. The facts and the evidence are on my side: No benefit, no improper action, no failure to disclose, no one influenced: no case.”

After the November hearings, the adjudicatory subcommittees assigned to each case must conduct deliberations, vote on each count alleged in the Statement of Alleged Violation and send a report of its findings to the full ethics committee. The full committee will then hold a public sanctions hearing, if any violation is found, vote on a sanction recommendation, and then write and transmit a report to the full House of Representatives.

ABC News’ request tonight for comment from the office of Representative Rangel was not immediately returned.

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