NEW YORK (AP) — New York’s Democratic political establishment came out in force for embattled U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel on Wednesday, packing a sold-out fundraiser to praise Rangel’s service over a 40-year career now tainted by ethics charges.

The timing of Rangel’s high-profile fundraiser spooked many Democrats nervous about the likelihood of steep losses in November. Indeed, only six of the state’s 27-member House Democratic delegation attended the event.

However, the show of public support for Rangel among the state’s highest officials was the most striking element of the evening, given that many of them — including U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo — will face voters in November.

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A House ethics panel has accused Rangel, the former House Ways and Means Committee chairman, of using official stationary to raise money for a college center bearing his name; delaying tax payments on income on a rental unit in the Dominican Republic; failing to file his financial disclosure statements on time; and operating four rent-stabilized apartments in New York, including one he used as a campaign office.

There was almost no mention of Rangel’s ethics problems as speakers stepped to the microphones to praise him.

Hundreds of supporters crowded into the Grand Ballroom at Manhattan’s Plaza Hotel for the fundraiser, which was tied to Rangel’s 80th birthday. Rangel seemed ebullient as he moved through the crowd, joined by his wife and daughter. Singer Dionne Warwick led the crowd in serenading him to her hit song “That’s What Friends are For.”

Cuomo, who served as housing secretary under President Bill Clinton, told the crowd that Clinton had trusted Rangel to crusade for a progressive national urban agenda.

Not everyone who showed up at the Plaza was a Rangel fan.

A handful of protesters showed up carrying signs urging Rangel to step down, prompting former New York City Mayor David Dinkins to make an obscene gesture at them.

The fundraiser emerged as a test of political loyalty to Rangel, the dean of the state’s congressional delegation. It came just a day after he delivered an impassioned speech on the House of Representatives floor insisting he would not resign despite the pending allegations.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.