GOP Fails To Oust Rangel Over Ethics Flap

Rep. Charles Rangel i i

hide captionRep. Charles Rangel is under investigation by the House ethics panel for not disclosing all of his personal assets and income.

Susan Walsh/AP
Rep. Charles Rangel

Rep. Charles Rangel is under investigation by the House ethics panel for not disclosing all of his personal assets and income.

Susan Walsh/AP

Charles Rangel, a powerful Democratic congressman under scrutiny for ethics violations, came into the spotlight again on Wednesday, as Republicans tried to force him to step down from his committee chairmanship.

The New York lawmaker is under investigation by the House ethics panel and has already conceded that he did not pay taxes on thousands of dollars in rental income.

Rep. John Carter (R-TX) led the effort to strip Rangel of his post. Speaking on the House floor, Carter detailed pages of allegations against Rangel: that Rangel hadn't disclosed a checking account and an investment account he holds, each worth at least a quarter of a million dollars; that he has benefited from special mortgage terms that amount to a gift; that he failed to disclose gifts on his personal disclosure statement and thus violated a House rule banning gifts of more than $100.

Carter talked about an undeclared vacation home that Rangel owns in the Dominican Republic, and his questionable use of a rent-controlled apartment in New York City as a campaign office. Carter read bits and pieces of newspaper reports and editorials condemning Rangel. And Carter went on for more than 13 minutes before he came to the end of his resolution.

Rangel has been dogged by ethics probes and tax controversies for more than a year. The House is investigating Rangel's alleged ethical violations. Here, a look at the issues the panel is investigating.

Democrats quickly moved to send the GOP resolution on Rangel back to the House ethics committee. But since that panel is already investigating allegations against Rangel, the 246-153 vote effectively rendered the resolution meaningless. Nineteen members voted present.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland reiterated Democrats' position: that the process is already working.

"The committee is doing its work. It is ongoing. It is thoroughly taking under consideration the matter that the chairman asked them to take under consideration, and we will await their report," Hoyer said.

It was Rangel himself who asked the ethics panel to thoroughly investigate his financial disclosures and his actions. He says all of his mistakes were unintentional.

So, the effect of Wednesday's vote? Pretty much nil, in terms of procedure. The question is how it shakes out politically.

This is the second time this year that Republicans have tried to force Rangel out of his post. They say Democrats aren't living up to their many campaign promises to clean up Congress. And last fall, the National Republican Campaign Committee tried to use Rangel as a political liability for Democrats in moderate districts, like that of Wisconsin Democratic Rep. Steve Kagen.

A political ad that ran last fall linked Kagen to Rangel, a "corrupt New York City congressman."

And though that strategy didn't work last year — Kagen kept his seat — the allegations against Rangel have only gotten more serious and more complicated since then.

Rep. Rangel's Ethics Allegations

Rep. Charles B. Rangel has been dogged by ethics probes and tax controversies for more than a year. The House is investigating Rangel's alleged ethical violations. Among the items it is looking at:

  • Rental Apartments: Rangel rented four apartments in Harlem at below-market rates while claiming his D.C. home as his primary residence for tax purposes.
  • Resort Villa: Rangel failed to disclose rental income from his resort villa in the Dominican Republican on his federal or state tax returns. The House is also probing whether Rangel received a sweetheart deal to finance his ownership interest in the resort.
  • Fundraising: Rangel used congressional stationery to seek donors for a public policy center in his name at City College of New York.
  • Car Storage: Rangel violated House rules by storing his Mercedes in a House parking lot.
  • Tax Loophole: Rangel helped preserve a loophole that benefited an oil drilling company — just as its CEO donated $1 million to an educational center in Rangel's name at CCNY.
  • Violating Gift Rules: Rangel and four other Democrats took trips to the Caribbean that were funded by the Carib News Foundation.

    Rangel also filed amended disclosure forms last summer in which he admitted that he previously had failed to report hundreds of thousands of dollars in income and assets, including tens of thousands of dollars in rental income from a Harlem brownstone he sold in 2004.

    Correction Oct. 18, 2009

    An early version of the audio for this story incorrectly identiifed Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland. He is the House majority leader.

    Comments

     

    Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

    Support comes from: