SEPTEMBER 25, 2008
The House Ethics Committee has finally decided to investigate a powerful Democrat congressman who has repeatedly used his office to raise money from corporations with business before him, concealed thousands of dollars in rental income and illegally accepted multiple rent control apartments in his district.
New York Representative Charles Rangel has committed a series of ethical and legal lapses during his three decades in the U.S. House yet the veteran lawmaker has gone unscathed. As chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Rangel is one of the most powerful members of Congress and evidently he thinks he’s above the law.
Under increasing pressure to finally take some sort of action against this out-of-control legislator, the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct outlined its probe against Rangel this week.
In the last few months alone the popular Harlem politician has been exposed for accepting several rent stabilized apartments from a Manhattan developer, using his congressional stationery to solicit money for a center named after him and failing to pay taxes for two decades on rental income from a Caribbean villa. Ironically, the committee he chairs writes the federal tax code.
Receiving the four rare rent-stabilized apartments is a violation of state and city regulations as well as House ethics rules. Failing to report the $75,000 in rental income over 20 years on his congressional disclosure forms, which are sworn statements, can carry a possible prison sentence. Additionally, New York state law makes filing a false city or state tax return a felony punishable by up to four years in prison.
Rangel also used his congressional office to solicit millions of dollars in donations from corporations with business interests before his panel. The money, about $30 million, will be used for a new academic center that will be named after him and eventually house his papers when he retires. Rangel got the project started with a highly controversial $1.9 million congressional earmark.
Last year Rangel was in hot water for proposing tax legislation that would greatly benefit his campaign contributors and the year before for lying about secretly accepting an all-expense paid family trip from a terrorist government. He slipped the tax provision into a broad tax relief bill in order to halt current audits of Americans who get breaks for operating businesses in the Virgin Islands.
In 2006 he was caught lying about a 2002 family trip financed by a government that for years has appeared on the U.S. State Department’s list of terrorist-sponsoring nations, a violation of House ethics rules. Rangel actually lied on his congressional travel disclosure forms to conceal that the Cuban government had paid for him and his family to visit the island to meet with Dictator Fidel Castro to discuss lifting U.S. trade restrictions on Havana.
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