Huffpost Politics

Ethics Committee Expands Rangel Investigation

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WASHINGTON — The House ethics committee on Thursday expanded its investigation of Rep. Charles Rangel to include his belated financial disclosure of hundreds of thousands of dollars in previously unreported assets and income.

The expansion only increases the political burden that the Ways and Means Committee chairman from Harlem places on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who refuses to make him step down from his post.

Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer have said they would take no action while the ethics investigation of the New York Democrat is under way, but the inquiry has dragged on for a year and expanded several times while it pushes closer to the 2010 election year.

Republicans have forced House votes three times, the latest this week, on removing Rangel from his tax-writing position. While Democrats easily defeated each attempt, the issue has allowed Republicans to ridicule Pelosi's refrain that Democrats would drain the swamp of ethical misconduct that previously plagued Republicans.

The committee said it would now investigate whether Rangel broke House rules "with respect to all financial disclosure statements and all amendments filed in calendar year 2009" as required under the Ethics In Government Act.

The law requires annual financial reports filed by all members of Congress showing ranges of assets and income.

Rangel's revisions showed assets and income from 2002 through 2006 that should have been reported in those earlier years.

The committee also gave an accounting of its work so far.

The House investigators have authorized nearly 150 subpoenas, interviewed some 34 witnesses and reviewed more than 12,000 pages of documents.

The committee has been concentrating on alleged financial improprieties and fundraising irregularities.

Among the most serious of Rangel's problems: the House's tax-writing chairman failed to pay all of his taxes, allowing Republicans to level charges that a tax scofflaw is writing tax legislation.

The unreported assets included a federal credit union account worth between $250,000 and $500,000; a Merrill Lynch account valued between $250,000 and $500,000; tens of thousands of dollars in municipal bonds and $30,000 to $100,000 in rent from a multifamily brownstone building in New York.

The ethics committee of five Democrats and five Republicans is also investigating whether Rangel and four other members of the Congressional Black Caucus violated gift rules and other standards of conduct with trips to the Caribbean in 2007 and 2008.

It's looking at contributions of money or monetary pledges to the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at the City College of New York and his use of official House stationery to solicit potential donors.

Other questions involve Rangel's acceptance and use of rent-stabilized apartments in New York from a Manhattan developer, and whether he received a sweetheart deal to finance his ownership interest in the Dominican resort.