Charges Against Rangel Put Dems In a Pickle

Published December 9, 2008

Posted Dec. 9, 2008 – With Rep. Charles B. Rangel of New York the subject of an investigation by a House ethics panel over his ownership of several rent-controlled apartments in New York, failure to pay taxes on an offshore rental property, and his use of office letterhead to solicit donations for a public-policy school that would bear his name —  he could be in trouble with the Democratic Leadership that was critical of Republicans who behaved badly.

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Last month, a story in The New York Times pointed to another potential problem. It suggested that Rangel preserved a tax break for an oil-drilling company in exchange for a $1-million contribution to the planned public-policy school. Since then, calls have come fast and furiously for Rangel to step back from chairing the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, at least while the investigation continues.

Critics say it’s particularly important that the lawmaker step away because he heads the key committee that would be in charge of working out the economic stimulus plan under the new Congress, which takes over in January with an emboldened Democratic majority eager to work with President-elect Barack Obama on the plan.   Rangel, 78, would be a highly visible player in rushing the stimulus package through the House as head of the House Ways And Means Committee. The committee he leads considers tax legislation, and the stimulus plan is expected to include some form of middle-class tax relief.

However, Rangel could be taking the lead in spiriting the legislation through just as the ethics panel issues its report on charges that he may have been the subject of influence pedaling, risking political embarrassment for Pelosi, who had criticized the corruption scandals that plagued Republicans such as Reps. Bob Ney of Ohio and Randy "Duke" Cunningham of Rancho Santa Fe while the GOP controlled Congress.

Rangel has strongly denied that any legislative action benefiting the oil-drilling company came in return for a donation to a school named after Rangel at the City College of New York, reports The Los Angeles Times. The 37-year House member has challenged The New York Times story in a letter to the newspaper, and House leadership aides say they fear a rush to judgment before the facts are clear.

Written by BET-Staff

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