WASHINGTON Democratic Representative Charles Rangel, Congress' former chief tax writer and a popular veteran New York politician, was convicted on Tuesday by fellow lawmakers of ethics violations.
An eight-member congressional panel found Rangel, 80, guilty of 11 counts, including failing to report rental income, improper use of a rent-stabilized apartment and soliciting charitable donations from people with business before Congress.
The House of Representatives Ethics Committee will now consider punishment, which will likely be a public denunciation by the full House, possibly this week.
With the panel's chief counsel finding "no evidence of corruption" and attributing Rangel's misdeeds largely to being "sloppy in his personal finances," the committee is not expected to recommend he be expelled from Congress.
Rangel, who failed in a bid to have his ethics trial postponed, saying he needed more time to muster the money to hire a new lawyer, denounced the verdict.
"This unfair decision is the inevitable result of the committee's insistence on moving forward despite the absence of any legal representation on my behalf," Rangel said.
Rangel resigned in March as chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee after being admonished in an unrelated case for corporate-sponsored trips in violation of House gift rules. Before giving up the gavel, he helped craft President Barack Obama's overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system.
Despite his ethical problems, Rangel's constituents want to keep their charismatic congressman, a former U.S. prosecutor and a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus. first elected to the House in 1970.
He won a 21st two-year term with 80 percent of the vote in the November 2 election -- even as his fellow Democrats lost control of the House to Republicans.
Another prominent House Democrat, Maxine Waters of California, is set to go on trial before a House ethics panel on November 29. Waters, a member of the Financial Services Committee, is charged with improperly helping a bank where her husband has an investment.
The fact that two top Democrats are to face trials within two weeks is embarrassing for their party, particularly since such proceedings are rare.
Rangel was the first House member to face a public ethics trial in Congress since Democratic Representative James Traficant in 2002. Traficant was expelled from Congress after being convicted in a federal court of bribery and racketeering.
(Editing by Peter Cooney)