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Despite scandal, Rangel rings in 80th birthday with lavish gala

By Raelyn Johnson, CNN
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Huge birthday gala for embattled Rangel
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Several high-profile politicians attend the Plaza Hotel party
  • Former New York Mayor Dinkins makes a crude gesture at protesters
  • Rangel says he won't resign over alleged ethics violations

New York(CNN) -- Embattled lawmaker Charlie Rangel, who is embroiled in an ethics investigation, celebrated his 80th birthday Wednesday with a lavish party at New York's Plaza Hotel.

"This sure ain't no funeral, is it?" Rangel boasted, as a parade of high-profile politicians turned up for the gala.

Among the attendees were New York City Mayor Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York Gov. David Paterson, and singers Harry Belafonte and Dionne Warwick.

Guests were treated to a performance by Warwick, who appropriately sang, "That's What Friends Are For."

Video: Rangel celebrates with friends
Video: Rangel: 'I am not going away'
Video: Watch Rangel avoid questions
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Outside, protesters held up signs that read, "Rangel Resign" and "Just Say No to Incumbents," prompting former New York City Mayor David Dinkins to flash them his middle finger.

"He's my brother. I wouldn't be anywhere else," Dinkins said of Rangel.

The birthday celebrations came a day after the 20-term congressman apologized on the House floor for causing any embarrassment by violating chamber rules.

"The way I'm feeling tonight just a little bit of all of you here are in me. You may not have gone through what I am going through, but all of you have had an experience where you just wish you had a friend or someone to talk to," Rangel said.

"Believe me, I ain't thinking about giving it up," he added.

The House ethics committee has accused Rangel of 13 violations of House rules involving alleged financial wrongdoing and harming the credibility of Congress.

Among other things, Rangel has been accused of using his influence to solicit donations for a college policy center bearing his name from corporate heads and others with business before the powerful House Ways and Means Committee.

Rangel was chairman of the committee until he was forced to give up the leadership position this year because of the pending allegations.

Other charges involve alleged income tax and financial disclosure violations, as well as improper use of government mail service and letterhead.

The Rev. Al Sharpton urged due process and had a strong message for the media.

"You have started and executed the political crucifixion, but stay tuned for the political resurrection," he said. "Charlie Rangel will rise from the ashes and show that we will never fall on such allegations. We will rise as the Phoenix and keep on fighting."

 
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