Black Conservatives Call for Rangel’s Removal as House Ways and Means Chairman

December 1, 2008 - 8:27 PM
A House&nbsp;investigation into alleged ethics violations by&nbsp;a prominent member of Congress won't be concluded until early next year.&nbsp;<br />

Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), the chairman of the House Ways and Committee

(CNSNews.com) – Project 21, a prominent group of black conservative leaders, is the latest to call on Speaker Nancy Pelosi to remove Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

“It’s galling that the head of the committee in charge of levying taxes has either a profound ignorance of tax law or a disinterest in adhering to the laws he wants others to follow,” Bishop Council Nedd II, a national advisory board member of Project 21, said in a Nov. 26 news release. 

The House Ethics Committee is currently looking into the extent of Rangel’s tax problems – an investigation Rangel himself called for after news stories leveled allegations of past financial improprieties.
However, no action has yet been taken against the congressman, who remains committee chairman.

“Rangel ought to be removed, at least for now,” Nedd said. “For a congressional leadership that pledged to bring ethics back to Washington, Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s apparent willingness to slow-walk her friend’s case is now blowing up in her face. It’s only allowed time for further apparent abuses to surface.” 

When the Democrats regained control of Congress in the 2006 elections, Pelosi, a San Francisco Democrat, said that “the Democrats intend to lead the most honest, most open and most ethical Congress in history.” 

In the past, when ethics allegations have been made against committee chiefs, the House leadership or the majority party’s caucus would “move these people out of positions of leadership,” said Project 21 spokesman David Almasi. 

“In the case of Charles Rangel, that does not seem to be the case whatever,” Almasi told CNSNews.com. “The leadership that said it was going to be ethical and bring back ethics to the Washington political scene seems to be casting a blind eye to something that, at this point, is just way out of control.”

Black conservatives do not stand alone in their call for Rangel’s removal. In September, House Republicans sent a similar letter to Pelosi.

The National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC), meanwhile, sent a letter to the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, asking that the investigation of Rangel be expanded. 

At issue are allegations that Rangel’s personal finances ran afoul of federal and state tax laws -- and federal election laws. 

The New York Times reported in July that Rangel had used rent-stabilized housing in Harlem for a political office – an apparent violation of rules that rent-stabilized units are to be used only as owner-occupied residences. 

The reduced rent from these units over the years appears to have violated federal election law, which forbids corporate in-kind contributions to federal campaign committees -- according to the NLPC.

The congressman’s tax records are currently under review as to whether he received a homestead tax exemption for his house in Washington, D.C., The Washington Post has reported. 

Rangel owns rent-stabilized apartments in New York City, where state and city laws mandate that residents occupying rent-stabilized units use them as primary residences. In addition, the District of Columbia Office of Tax and Revenue only grants the homestead tax deduction to properties which are primary residences.

The Post reported recently that Rangel had used congressional stationary in asking representatives of various foundations to meet with officials from City College of New York about a project on the campus to be named in his honor.
 
The congressman reportedly acknowledged that he sent the letters in the hope they would usher in contributions for the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service, but thought he was performing nothing unethical.

Rangel, meanwhile, is also reported to have procured a no-interest loan for a villa in the Dominican Republic, which he rented out to others -- prompting charges that he failed to report $75,000 in income that the property produced. 

Rangel said that he did not know of the payments from the resort where the villa was rented out, because the payments went to his mortgage and the resort rarely sent him financial statements. His lawyer, meanwhile, said that he was unaware of the income because his wife handled the family finances and met with their accountant regarding tax issues.
 
“I really don't believe that making mistakes means that you have to give up your career,” Rangel reportedly said. “I personally feel that I've done nothing morally wrong.”

In a recent “Open Letter to New Yorkers,” the New York Democrat claimed he was being smeared by Republicans. 

“I assure you, I’ve brought no dishonor to my family, the Congress, my constituents, or my country,” Rangel wrote. 

Pelosi, meanwhile, has indicated Rangel will continue to hold his position as committee chairman at least until January -- and likely beyond that. 

“Charlie Rangel is a very distinguished member of the House of Representatives,” she said.

The Ethics Committee is expected to report on its investigation in January.