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article imageCongressman Charles Rangel Just Doesn't Quit

By Debra Myers     Sep 15, 2008 in Politics
Rep. Charles Rangel has seen his name blazed in headlines, not for the good things that he's done, but rather for his ineptness at handling his monetary affairs. This time, his name has made the headlines for taking luxurious trips on lobbyist monies.
New York - One would think that after investigations by the House Ways and Means Committee and the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct that Rep. Charles Rangel, 78, would tow the line and keep his business affairs on the up and up. Not so. Yesterday, his name was again splashed across the front of New York Post and on other news sites as far away as Tacoma, Washington.
For nearly ten years, Rangel has taken free trips to luxurious Caribbean destinations thanks to lobbyist from corporations like Pfizer and Macy's, who funnelled their sponsorship monies through a New York-based Caribbean newspaper. Usually, Rangel disclosed these trips on his income taxes, however it's been learned that he didn't abide by the new rules on lobbyist-financed travel which had been introduced in 2007.
The House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct changed the rules last year in an effort to curb such free trips that were paid for "in any part by a lobbyist" or major corporation. In order to accept any privately paid-for free trips, all members of Congress has to request permission first. If, there is any sign of funding by lobbyists, permission would be denied.
Last November, Rangel didn't heed the new rules, and accepted a free trip to Sandals Grande Resort and Spa in Antigua and Barbuda without requesting permission. AT&T, HSBC, Sandals and Pfizer were listed as "sponsors" of the conference, which was organized by a group called NY Carib News Foundation. In his 2007 federal filing on the trip, Rangel listed the Carib News Foundation, but failed to disclose that the trip was financed by corporations.
This November, a conference is set to take place at the beautiful Sonesta Maho Beach Resort on the island of St. Maarten. Rangel is to be one of the guests of honor, yet he hasn't requested permission to take the trip.
Rangel isn't the only one that hasn't disclosed the junkets under these new rules. Several other Democratic lawmakers are guilty of the same and have yet to disclose their trips to last year's conference on their 2007 filings.
"This appears to be an improper off-the-books junket that violates the new House travel rules," said Ken Boehm, the chairman of the National Legal and Policy Center, a watchdog group based in Virginia. "You can't go on a trip financed in any part by lobbyists."
As if this information isn't shocking in itself, the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee found more proof that Rangel hasn't played by the rules. The Committee learned that Rangel failed to report about $75,000 in rental income over two decades from a beach villa he owns in the Dominican Republic; he owes about $5,000 in back taxes to the government; he never knew he paid no interest on the villa’s mortgage for more than a decade.
Interestingly enough, it's now that the Ethics Committee is beginning to inspect Rangel's personal and professional affairs. Even though Rangel has admitted his mistakes, he's still out there making even more. Here's a recap:
> He claimed that his three NYC apartments were 'rent subsidized', when in fact they are 'rent stabilized'.
> Rangel claims that there was a problem with understanding the Spanish-spoken language at the beach villa, which confused him. He and his lawyers repeatedly said the price of the beach villa was $82,750. Yet, in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Rangel cited a price of $88,900. Asked about the discrepancy a day later, aides said they weren’t sure of the origin of the higher figure.
> Some years he reported income from the villa and other years he did not, claiming that he hadn't paid attention to the details of the property. As it is, Rangel is late filing his financial information to Congress, which is the norm for him.
The irony is that here Rangel is doing the opposite of the very tax laws that he authored. Having been red flagged because of improper behavior regarding finances both personally and professionally, eyes are now on Rangel and he needs to tow the line and abide by the rules.
But will he?
More about Rangel, Money problems, Congressman
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