Charlie Rangel drops ethics trial attorneys, may represent self

Rep. Charlie Rangel, the loquacious New York Democrat who has been battling against ethics charges for years has parted company with his long-time attorneys. No official reason for his split with white-collar firm Zuckerman Spaeder has been released but it may be a question of money.

In an August speech, Rangel had complained about the high cost of his legal expenses, over $1.4 million according to the FEC, and that his fellow Democrats were not being sufficiently helpful toward him. “Hey, if I was you, I may want me to go away too,” Rangel said at the time. He floated the idea of retaining his lead attorney on a pro bono basis, an idea he ultimately abandoned because such an arrangement would have run afoul of lobbying restrictions.

Rangel, a former practicing attorney, may have to resort to defending himself considering that the start date for his trial before the House Ethics Committee is just a few weeks away, Nov. 15. That doesn’t leave a lot of time for Rangel to bring in new counsel and have it become familiar with the issues.

According to The Hill, there is no indication that the trial will be postponed, especially considering that it is scheduled just a few weeks before another prominent Democrat, Rep. Maxine Waters (Calif.), goes on trial Nov. 29. It seems unlikely that Democratic leaders would want to have prolonged ethics hearings during a time after the election when President Obama and Democrats will be fighting hard against Republican plans to extend across-the-board tax cuts currently set to expire at the end of this year.

Here’s the AP’s summary of the major charges against Rangel:

  1. Using House stationery and staff to solicit money for a New York college center named after him.
  2. Soliciting donors with interests before the Ways and Means Committee, leaving the impression the money could influence official actions.
  3. Failing to disclose at least $600,000 in assets and income in a series of inaccurate financial disclosure reports to Congress.
  4. Using a rent-subsidized New York apartment for a campaign office, when it was designated for residential use.
  5. Failure to report to the IRS rental income from his unit in a Dominican Republic resort.

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