SEPTEMBER 10, 2008
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is ignoring calls from fellow lawmakers to remove a veteran Democrat representative, who has repeatedly violated ethics rules and used his office to raise money from corporations with business before him, as chair of a powerful tax-writing committee.
In a hard-hitting letter signed by several outraged congressional colleagues, Pelosi is told that as Speaker of the House she must insist that Charles Rangel, who has represented Harlem for nearly four decades, step down from his House Ways and Means Committee chairmanship pending an investigation into his ethical lapses.
Given Chairman Rangel’s continuing ethical lapses, the letter says, he cannot effectively carry out is duties as committee chair. Rangel’s latest violation, exposed by the media this week, evidently pushed his colleagues to finally call for his ouster from the prestigious committee which actually writes the federal tax code.
It turns out that the self-proclaimed champion of the poor has for decades excluded rental income—$75,000 in 20 years—from a luxurious Caribbean villa on federal and state tax returns. He also failed to mention the earnings on congressional financial disclosure forms which are sworn statements.
A few months earlier, Rangel was exposed by his hometown newspaper for having four extremely rare rent-stabilized apartments in New York—a violation of state and city regulations as well as House ethics rules—even though he regularly criticizes his district’s lack of affordable housing.
In the same week, news reports revealed that Rangel 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.
None of this seems to bother to Pelosi, who vowed to implement ethics reform when she took over as speaker with her infamous “maybe it takes a woman to clean house” rhetoric. Through a spokesman, Madam Speaker said the call to oust Rangel is a ploy to divert attention from the continuing fallout of the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal and its culture of corruption.
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