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Charles B. Rangel
Democrat, New York (1971-present)
Update: July 29, 2010: House Ethics Committee delivers its 13 charges against Rangel. Check out the Ethics charges, Rangel's statement, and statement of others.
Update: July 22, 2010: A House Ethics Subcommittee announced that Rangel violated congressional ethics rules and that it will prepare for a trial, probably to begin in September. A full announcement of the details should be forthcoming next week.
So this is bad news for Rangel, right? No, that's not how he sees it. "At long last, sunshine has pierced through this cloud that has been over my head for more than two years." Yes, indeed, Rangel welcomes the opportunity to respond to the allegations.
Honorable Charles Rangel (Democrat-New York) is soliciting donations from corporations that have business interests before his committee. Rangel's the chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. Rangel wants to raise $30 million in private money for the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at the City College of New York. Last year, Rangel arranged a congressional earmark worth $1.9 million to help start the project. Rangel calls this a "personal dream of mine" to see this center build, with his name on it. His critics say its a "monument to me." How does all this sound? Send letters of solicitation to corporations and captains of industry, asking them for money. Then having those same interests come before his committee seeking favors and special treatment. Does this really pass the smell test?
Update: On July 31,2008: the House (all the Democrats and 25 Republicans) tabled a motion to censure Rangel. Rangel had rented four New York City apartments--including one he used as his campaign headquarters--at below market rates. The resolution against Rangel said he "has dishonored himself and brought discredit to the House." Rangel said it was "mean-spirited people in the minority" [that is, Minority Leader John A. Boehner of Ohio] who are suggesting that he would discredit the House.
Update, Sept. 5, 2008: Double whammy for the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee! First, Rangel earned more than $75,000 in rental income (since 1988) from a villa he owned in the Dominican Republic. But, alas, he failed to report it as income on his federal or state tax returns. Reason? The chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, responsible for the federal tax code, did not realize he had to declare the money as income and was unaware of semi-annual payments from the resort, because (the last refuge of excuses), his wife handled all those details.
Then there's the second part of the double whammy: turns out Rangel received an interest-free loan from the developer of his vacation villa. His reaction: well, I dunno: just learned about it last week.
Update, Nov. 25, 2008: The New York Times revealed that Rangel helped preserve a tax loophole for an oil drilling company at the same time the executive pledged $1 million to a school that would bear Rangel's name. Rangel denies any wrong doing: "At no time--ever--did I entertain, promote, or secure a tax break or any special favor for anyone as an inducement or reward for a contribution to the City College of New York." The pledge came from Nabors Industries, Ltd, and its chief, Eugene M. Isenberg, said the school was a worthy cause and he didn't get any special treatment. Right.
The Times reported that on February 12, 2007, when tax legislation was being considered in his committee, Rangel met with Isenberg in New York to discuss the businessman's support for the school. Then Isenberg escorted Rangel across the room to meet his lobbyist, Kenneth J. Kies, who wanted to make sure Rangel would not close the tax loophole for Nabors.
The Washington Post has called for Rangel to step aside as chairman.
Update: Feb. 26, 2010: The House Ethics Committee concluded that Rangel broke congressional gift rules. The committee did not find that Rangel himself knew about the corporate backing for the trips, but that at least two of his staff knew, and thus he should have known. Still to go: investigations regarding his failure to pay taxes on a villa he owns in the Dominican Republic.
Update: March 3 2010: Rangel announced that he would take a "leave of absence" (in Washington-ese, he resigned in disgrace) from the chairmanship of the Ways and Means Committee. Just two days before, Rangel boasted "you bet your life" he would stay as chairman. But now, with big time pressure from Pelosi, he decided, for the good of the Democratic party, to step down.
Sources: Ryan J. Donmoyer, "Rangel Got Interest-Free Loan on Dominican Villa," Bloomberg.com, and David Kocieniewski, "Rangel Failed to Report $75,000 in Income," New York Times, Sept. 5, 2008. Ray Hernandez, "Pelosi Says Inquiry into Ethics Questions Concerning Rangel will Move Swiftly," New York Times, Nov. 26, 2008. "Step Aside, Rep. Rangel," Washington Post, November 29, 2008, A14. Paul Kane, "Rep. Rangel's Trip Broke Congressional Gift Rules, Panel Says," Washington Post, February 26, 2010. Paul Kane and Perry Bacon, Jr., "Rangel, Under Fire, Leaves Power Post," Washington Post, March 4, 2010, A1.