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Is Charles Rangel corrupt?

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Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

(Read caption) Rep. Charles Rangel sits in his ethics hearing before the House Adjudicatory subcommittee Thursday on Capitol Hill.

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Yes, Rep. Charles Rangel has been found guilty of ethics violations by a House ethics panel. But does that mean he was corrupt?

It’s a question that appears to matter quite a bit to Rep. Rangel (D) of New York himself. And well it might – if the public at large begins to think of him as corrupt and sleazy, as opposed to sloppy and careless, his legacy will be even more diminished after decades of public service.

And it perhaps he would find it harder to look at himself in the mirror in the morning.

That is why at his punishment hearing on Tuesday Rangel admitted that he had done wrong in such matters as failing to pay taxes on rental income earned from his Dominican Republic beach villa, and soliciting donations for the Charles Rangel Center for Public Service – but that his actions had been inadvertent.

“I had no intent to evade or avoid the law,” Rangel told a hearing of the full House Ethics Committee.

He hadn’t known the details of his own tax returns, he said. Officials from the City College of New York, site of the Rangel Center, had come to him and suggested that he would be the best person to raise needed cash for the institution, according to Rangel.

In brief remarks to the committee he reminded them that the panel’s own chief counsel, Blake Chisam, under questioning early in the week, had said he saw no evidence of corruption per se in Rangel’s actions.

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