The head of the House ethics committee determining the fate of Rep. Charles Rangel has recommended that the New York lawmaker be censured by the House for financial and fundraising misconduct.
Chief counsel Blake Chisam's recommendation is the most serious punishment the committee can hand down, short of expulsion. A censure is a formal public reprimand, but holds no legal consequences.
The committee found Rangel guilty on 11 counts of violating House ethics rules, including misusing his office to raise funds for a college center, setting up a campaign office in a subsidized apartment unit, and failing to pay taxes on a rental property for 17 years.
Rangel issued a plea to the panel Thursday for "a drop of fairness and mercy." He spoke calmly without notes as he faced the committee, and repeatedly denied he was corrupt or crooked.
If Chisam's recommendation is carried out, it would be the first censure given in more than 26 years.
Rangel is a political kingpin in New York's Harlem neighborhood, and is unlikely to resign.