Special Interests Help Rangel Pay Lawyers $928K in Last Year

Rangel photoJohn Bresnahan reported in Politico on July 15:

Embattled House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel, facing a multi-pronged investigation by the House ethics committee, shelled out nearly $280,000 to four different law firms over the last quarter, according to his newest campaign disclosure report.

Overall, Rangel has paid $928,000 to his attorneys during the last year as his personal finances have come under scrutiny on a variety of fronts.

Much of the money was spent fending off allegations by NLPC.

We exposed Rangel’s 1) evading of taxes on rental income on his Dominican Republic beach house; 2) cheating on his DC property taxes by improperly claiming homestead exemption; and 3) leading a Citigroup-funded junket to the Caribbean in violation of House Rules.

There are two outrages here. First, Rangel gets to pay his legal bills out of his campaign funds while ordinary citizens who get into tax trouble have to pay out of their own pockets. Second, the need for Rangel to pay his massive legal bills provides yet another opportunity for special interests to buy influence.

Politico continues:

But despite his ethics troubles, Rangel remains a prolific fundraiser, raising nearly $405,000 in the period from April 1 to June 30, according to the latest report filed with the Federal Election Commission.

More than half that total – nearly $236,000 – came in the form of PAC contributions from corporations, trade associations and labor unions, including AFSCME, Boeing, General Electric, Pepsico, Raytheon, and UPS.

Rangel still has more than $831,000 in cash in his campaign account as of June 30. Federal election law allows lawmakers to use campaign funds to pay their legal bills if they stem from an investigation related to their official duties.

It’s hard to see how Rangel’s tax evasion relates to his official duties, unless of course, he believes his official duties include the selling of influence to the developers of the Punta Cana resort in the Dominican Republic. They gave Rangel a no-interest mortgage, although Rangel claims he did not know about it.

Politico goes on:

Rangel also reported receiving $88,150 in “bundled” funds via the National Beer Wholesalers Association, American Council of Life Insurers and Association for Advanced Life Underwriters. Lawmakers must disclose bundled funds worth more than $15,000 from any one source during a six-month period.

photo: AP/Wide World