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An attorney for House Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel (N.Y.) acknowledged Monday that more than six weeks after the senior Democrat announced he would hire a forensic auditor to scour his tax and financial records, he has yet to do so, saying an extensive review process has delayed any action.
Attorney Lanny Davis asserted sole responsibility for the protracted search, stating: I set up a number of criteria in order to establish this is a truly independent person.
Among those requirements, Davis said the accounting firms considered could not engage in lobbying activities before the Ways and Means Committee, could not make campaign contributions to Rangel and could have no other contacts with the lawmaker.
Thats the only thing that I cant avoid that were paying this person, Davis added.
Davis said he believes an appropriate firm has been found, and an agreement could be finalized next week. Were now negotiating terms, he said.
Davis declined to discuss whether the search criteria required Rangels office to look outside the Washington, D.C., area.
The firm that were looking for is not necessarily locally based, [but] the preference was a national or international firm, Davis said, and later added: Its been very difficult.
Rangel announced in mid-September that he would hire a forensic auditor to review his tax returns and personal financial disclosures after news reports revealed that he failed to properly report assets on tax forms, and he estimated he could owe $10,000 in back taxes and penalties.
Davis previously stated that the auditor will file a report to the ethics committee without giving Rangel or his attorney an opportunity to review the document, and that the committee will be authorized to release the report and Rangels tax returns to the public.
Rangel is also under scrutiny by the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, which voted in late September to establish an investigative subcommittee into a multitude of alleged rules violations by the senior lawmaker.
The panels investigation will examine Rangels ownership of a Dominican Republic villa the lawmaker has admitted he failed to report rental income, the nexus of his tax troubles as well as his use of House parking facilities for long-term vehicle storage, fundraising efforts on behalf of a City College of New York center bearing his name, and the lawmakers use of multiple rent-controlled apartments as his primary residence.
The New York Democrat, who has defended his behavior in each of the incidents, had himself requested the ethics panel investigate each of the incidents.
Despite the fact that a little more than two months remain in the year, Davis said he expects the audit could be completed before the close of the 110th Congress.
Our feeling is it is possible for this to be done quickly because the focus of the forensic account is not to do a wholesale audit but to investigate the issues that are before the ethics committee, Davis said.
However, it remains unclear when the ethics panel would resume consideration of the matter if the report is not completed before that time. The committee would be required to initiate a new investigation at the start of the next Congress.