Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) has formally opened a legal defense fund in an apparent acknowledgement of our accusation that he illegally used almost $400,000 in PAC funds for his legal defense. According to a statement Rangel made to Politics Daily:
The repeated filings of allegations, no matter how unsubstantiated, by the National Legal Policy Committee (sic), a politically-motivated right wing group dedicated to eviscerating civil rights and labor union protections, have led me to this action.
On November 29, we filed a Complaint with the Federal Election Commission alleging that Rangel violated the Federal Election Campaign Act by using almost $400,000 in funds from his National Leadership PAC to pay legal bills related to the House Ethics Committee actions against him.
Members of Congress may use funds from their personal re-election committees for legal expenses related to their official actions. The National Leadership PAC is not Rangel’s re-election committee but what is classified as a “leadership PAC,” the purpose of which is make contributions to other candidates.
Rangel was censured by the full House on December 2 by a vote of 333-79. NLPC exposed Rangel’s failure to disclose or pay taxes on rental income from a Dominican Republic beach house, which prompted Rangel to amend his disclosures to show hundreds of thousands in previously undisclosed income and assets. In March, Rangel resigned from his chairmanship of the Ways and Means Committee after being admonished by the House Ethics Committee for accepting corporate-funded Caribbean junkets, also exposed by NLPC.
Rangel continues to be an embarrassment to Congress. In addition to his attack on NLPC, Rangel claimed that the overwhelming censure vote was some kind of vindication:
I continue to draw satisfaction from the recently concluded Ethics Committee investigations that established that, while I committed serious violation of the rules of the House, none of those violations included corruption, intent, self-dealing, self-enrichment or quid pro quos involving any official action.
One thing Rangel does get right is his expectation of our continued scrutiny. According to Lynn Sweet in Politics Daily, Rangel sent an email to supporters that read, in part:
Many supporters have encouraged this for a while as it is becoming clear that there are those who will continue to mine and instigate further allegations.
While we welcomed the Ethics Committee investigations of matters we brought to their attention, we believe that Rangel has been engaged in additional serious corruption which we will seek to document in coming months.
Rangel’s latest rant follows previous attacks on NLPC. On February 1, 2009, Rangel accused journalists of being “an arm of this organization,” and asserted that reporters do NLPC’s “dirty work.” On August 10, 2010, Rangel made a speech on the House floor and attacked NLPC. He complained:
And they followed me on vacation. They followed me when I was doing business. They’re at the airport. They’re outside where I live. It’s kind of rough.