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Rep. Charles Rangel to be admonished Friday by ethics committee

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Rangel preempts admonishment
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Rep. Charles Rangel will be formally admonished Friday by House, Thursday
  • Issue concerns who paid for travel he and others took to the Caribbean in 2007 and 2008
  • Rangel says ethics committee approved the travel
  • A nonprofit ethics group says Rangel shouldn't be the only person admonished
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(CNN) -- Rep. Charles Rangel, D-New York, will be formally admonished Friday by the House's ethics committee for violating rules on receiving gifts, the committee announced Thursday.

The issue centers on who paid for his and several other members of the Congressional Black Caucus' 2007 and 2008 travel to the Caribbean.

While the committee found that the other five caucus members committed no wrongdoing, Rangel "violated the House gift rules by accepting payment for reimbursement for travel to the 2007 and 2008 conferences," it said in a written statement.

Rangel's staff knew corporations had given money to the Carib News, which sponsored the events, the statement said.

That fact had not been divulged to the ethics committee when Rangel asked for and received approval to accept the trip, the statement said.

The ethics committee also found that Rangel did not know of the contributions. Nonetheless, he would be held responsible.

"The committee does not find sufficient evidence to conclude, nor does it believe that it would discover additional evidence to alter its conclusion, that Representative Rangel had actual knowledge of the memoranda written by his staff. However, the report finds that Representative Rangel was responsible for the knowledge and actions of his staff in the performance of their official duties."

The powerful chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee -- the lead body for writing tax law in the House -- will have to repay the costs of the trips, according to the statement, which did not indicate how much that would be.

"I don't want to be critical of the committee but common sense dictates that members of Congress should not be held responsible for what could be the wrongdoing or mistakes or errors of staff unless there's reason to believe that the member knew or should have known," Rangel told reporters late Thursday night. "And there's nothing in the record to indicate the latter."

Rangel told reporters he would meet with his lawyer to discuss the report -- which calls itself a service of "public admonishment" -- and how it is that he is being held responsible for his staff's actions. He will refund the costs as directed by the ethics committee, Rangel spokesmen Elbert Garcia and Emile Milne said in a written statement.

Two staff members knew of the corporate funding and one was "discharged," Rangel said. He did not provide further details.

Asked about the matter, House Minority Leader John Boehner said he didn't know all the facts. But, when reminded that he had previously called for Rangel to step aside, he said: "He should step aside until all this stuff in the ethics committee is resolved."

An aide to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, "It's to soon to say anything" regarding whether Rangel will stay chairman of the committee.

"We have received nothing from ethics," said Brendan Daly.

A nonprofit ethics group voiced its opinion on the statement Thursday, saying Rangel shouldn't be the only person admonished.

"The ethics committee's decision makes no sense," Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington's Executive Director Melanie Sloan said in a written statement. "There is simply no reason for Rep. Rangel alone to be held accountable for taking this trip when a number of other members were also present."

The ethics committee first announced its investigation into the Caribbean travel in June. The five other Congressional members investigated -- Reps. Bennie Thompson, Yvette Clarke, Donald Payne, Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick and Donna Christensen -- did not "knowingly violate" rules because they were provided false information, the statement said. They will still have to repay the costs of their trips.

For Rangel, the Carib News affair follows a string of entanglements with the ethics committee over several issues, including failure to report assets and pay taxes.

CNN's Brianna Keilar contributed to this story.

 
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