Vermont's Rep. Peter Welch will play a key role in an unfolding ethics scandal in the House of Representatives, as he has been named to a special adjudicatory panel weighing evidence of wrongdoing against former House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel (D-NY).
A set of 13 allegations against Rangel were made public today by the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, also known as the Ethics Committee.
A special investigative panel of the Ethics Committee alleges Rangel committed a wide range of abuses, including failure to report rental income on a Dominican Republic villa, misuse of his congressional stationery for fund raising for an education center, and his use of three rent-controlled New York apartments.
Welch is one of eight committee members who will serve on the adjudicatory subcommittee that determine if Rangel has violated House rules.
Given the sensitive nature of the committee's work, Welch's office would not provide any official comment on the proceedings.
However, in a written statement, committee chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) outlined the committee's job.
"As members of the Adjudicatory Subcommittee, we are neither accusers nor are we defenders of our colleague, Mr. Rangel. Our job is to act impartially as finders of fact and law. We are honor bound to do so without regard to partisanship or bias of any sort. We are required to act honesty and fairly based on the evidence presented to us during the adjudicatory hearing," said Lofgren in a prepared statement.
"It is our obligation to decide, if facts are established, whether those facts make up a violation of the rules of the House," Lofgren added.
The full ethics committee, composed of five members each of the majority and minority parties, is charged with establishing and enforcing codes of ethical conduct, investigating breaches of applicable rules and laws, recommending enforcement actions, and providing advice and guidance to members of Congress and their staffs.
“We live in a time where public skepticism about the institutions in our country is very high," Lofgren said. "It has been the goal of our ethics committee throughout this Congress to, by our actions, rebuild and earn trust by the public and our colleagues.”
More than a year ago, Welch voluntarily returned $19,000 in campaign contributions from a fellow lawmaker who is under investigation for possible ethics violations. Welch was named to the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct shortly after winning reelection in 2008.
Rangel donated money to Welch in each of the 2006 and 2008 election cycles.
Joining Welch on the Adjudicatory Subcommittee are Reps. G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), Kathy Castor (D-FL), Mike Conaway (R-TX), Charles Dent (R-PA) and Gregg Harper (R-MS). The ranking member of the committee is Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX).
To download the committee's complaint, along with supporting evidence, click here to go directly to the Committee on Official Standards of Conduct's website, known unofficially as the ethics committee.