Chief U.S. tax writer, Charles Rangel, hit with another round of trouble

With Charles Rangel still reeling from the financial misconduct charges leveled at him last year -- for tax years 2004, 2005, and 2006 -- round two is now hitting him hard and fast. This time the allegations relate mostly to 2007. The seventy-nine year old Democrat has been a member of the House of Representatives since 1971, representing New York's 15th District.  Since 2007, he has also served as the Chairman of the House Ways and Means committee, which makes him the chief tax writer of the United States.  That’s why so many people, including many former supporters, are up in arms about charges he failed to report and pay taxes on large chunks of taxable income and neglected to disclose his full income as required by House members.  According to the Web site of the Office of the Clerk of the House, filing a false disclosure form  can result in civil penalties and up to five years in prison. 

For 2007, Rangel is accused of not reporting:
 
·         Rental income he received from a brownstone building in Harlem, estimated at between $30,000 and $100,000
 
·         A Merrill Lynch account valued between $250,000 and $500,000
 
·         Tens of thousands of dollars in municipal bonds.
 
If all that isn’t enough to make a grown Congressman cry, there’s yet another storm brewing for Rangel.  Since the ethics probes began last year, Rangel has made campaign donations to 119 members of Congress, according to CBS News.  The list of recipients includes three of the five Democrats who are investigating him: Congressmen Ben Chandler of Kentucky, G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina, and Peter Welch of Vermont.  Of those three, only Welch has refused the donations. “In an abundance of caution, he has returned all campaign contributions from Mr. Rangel," says, Welch’s Chief of Staff, Bob Rogan told reporters.
 
With Rangel's troubles mounting, so are the voices clamoring for him to step down.  The New York Times, known for its liberal leanings, has led the effort to oust Rangel for a long time.   Now the Washington Post has joined the fight, along with many of Rangel’s own Harlem constituents.

 

Round One Recap
 
 Last year the New York Post reported that, in 1988, Rangel purchased a three bedroom, three bath villa in the Punta Cana Yacht Club in the Dominican Republic. According to the Punta Cana managers and staff, Rangel's villa has been one of the most popular rentals at the Club, renting for between $500 and $1,100 per night.  Yet, Rangel reported no rental income on his income tax return. He first told Post reporters that he’d never received rental income from the villa, then later said it was a “private matter.”  Not only were no taxes paid on the Punta Cana income, but the amounts also were not reported as required on his annual Congressional financial disclosure forms. The Office of the Clerk of the House of Representatives Web site states that financial disclosure forms are submitted by House members every year and   "include information about the source, type, amount, or value of the incomes of Members, officers, certain employees of the U.S. House of Representatives and related offices, and candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives."
 
After the controversy over the unreported rental income and the unpaid taxes broke, Rangel launched an investigation of himself, probing into these issues:
 
·         The use of his Congressional stationery to solicit support for a planned education center that will be named after him
 
·         A possible sweetheart loan from a political contributor on the villa at Punta Cana Yacht Club
 
·         His lease of four rent-stabilized apartments, on Lenox Terrace in Harlem, one of which is used as a campaign office.  State and city ordinances require rent stabilized apartments to be used as primary residences. The New York Times reported that Rangel's discount on these apartments amounts to about $30,000 per year. Rangel has reported his annual income to be around $175,000, but the recent disclosures of additional income push him up to around $200,000. That higher amount would put him in violation of the rules for having rent stabilized apartments at all, let alone four. Because of the controversy, he has given up the apartment he used as an office and is under pressure to give up the other three, which form a sprawling personal residence for Rangel.
 
When the news of these problems broke last year, the calls for his resignation began to swell. With trouble nipping at his heels, Rangel quickly wrote checks totaling more than $20,000 covering back taxes for 2004, 2005, and 2006 for federal and state back taxes. No penalties or interest were included in these payments, though Rangel said he was willing to pay them. 
 
With the revelation of the newest charges, Rangel has refused to comment, pleading only for “fairness.”
 
 "Fairness dictates that, before Congressman Rangel can speak publicly on issues before the Ethics Committee, the committee must be given the opportunity to deliberate and issue its own findings on the matter," said a statement issued by Rangel's office.
 
According to Politico.com, Rangel has stated that in spite of the ethics charges, he plans to run for re-election in 2010, and so far, he has the full support of Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.

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