House Expands Probe into Rangel

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A day after surviving a GOP-sponsored vote to take away his House Ways & Means gavel, Charlie Rangel was again in the news. The House Ethics Committee voted unanimously to expand their investigation to Rangel’s personal disclosure forms. Earlier this year, Rangel quietly amended these forms, reporting an additional $600,000 in income going back to 2001. The committee had been unaware of these changes until they were reported in the press in August. At Rangel’s request, the committee had already been looking into his sub-leasing of rent-stabilized apartments near his home in Harlem, his failure to report income from a vacation rental house in the Dominican Republican and his fundraising for the Charlie B. Rangel Center at New York’s City College.

The committee’s work has already lasted more than a year and, they revealed today, they’ve issued more than 150 subpoenas relating to the case. They’ve also “interviewed approximately 34 witnesses resulting in over 2,100 pages of transcripts; reviewed and analyzed over 12,000 pages of documents; and held over 30 investigative subcommittee meetings,” Reps. Zoe Lofgren and Jo Bonner, the committees top Democrat and Republican, respectively, said in a joint statement.

The New York congressman has reportedly spent more than $1 million in legal fees defending himself. Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she’s unwilling to take away Rangel’s chairmanship until the committee reaches a conclusion. No criminal charges have been filed. Still, cracks in the until-now-unified Democratic support are starting to show: two Mississippi congressmen – Gene Taylor and Travis Childers – yesterday became the first Democrats to vote to strip Rangel of his chairmanship (the GOP has brought up this vote every couple of months for the last year).

Predictably, Republicans latched on to today’s announcement.  “Given the expanded investigation announced today, it is past time for Speaker Pelosi to insist that Chairman Rangel step aside until the Ethics Committee completes its work,” House Minority Leader John Boehner said in a statement. ‘The American people won’t stand for having a chairman of the House’s tax-writing committee who is under investigation for not paying his taxes.  What more has to happen before Speaker Pelosi does the right thing?”

A Rangel spokesman downplayed the committee’s announcement as “nothing new.” “
Today’s action by the committee is a technicality, as everything they referenced in today’s announcement has already been subject to ongoing review by the Ethics Committee and its staff,” the spokesman said. “It is clear that the committee is being very thorough and deliberative in its process, just as the Chairman expected. While the Committee continues its review, Chairman Rangel will continue working harder than ever to reform America’s health care system and help our economy recover.”