Rangel Denies Wrongdoing, Calls for Probe

Posted July 17, 2008 at 11:31am

House Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) called Thursday morning for the ethics committee to investigate his fundraising efforts for a New York City College center that bears his name, denying he abused Congressional resources.

“Nobody that can read is going to bring any charges against me,” Rangel said at a press conference, where he railed against the Washington Post, which first reported on the New York lawmaker’s fundraising.

“I’m going to see how much damn ink the Washington Post has,” he said, later adding that “I want to set a confrontational tone.”

Rangel defended his use of Congressional stationary to write to a variety of charitable foundations and private individuals to draw attention to the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service.

“I challenge … the Washington Post to show one line in any of the letters I have sent out … where there’s a solicitation for funds,” Rangel said.

He asserted that the letters served only to arrange meetings between college officials and various charities and were not a direct request for funds.

“It was to bring together those who had money and the foundations together with City College,” he said.

According to the text of the letters released by Rangel’s office, the lawmaker told potential donors:

“I want you to know of my personal interest in and enthusiasm for the creation of this Center and my pride in the decision of the City University to name it for me.”

Rangel states that he will “be exploring with my Congressional colleagues how best to move this idea through the appropriations process.”

The letter then continues: “I request your advice and assistance concerning how to approach the donor community, particularly private and corporate foundations interested in education. I look forward to entering into a dialogue with you on the funding of the Rangel Center concept in the coming weeks and months.”

Rangel also argued that none of the individuals — including Donald Trump, Carnegie Corporation President Vartan Gregorian and David Rockefeller — or groups that he approached has appeared before his committee, which has broad jurisdiction over tax issues.

“I could not imagine any of these foundations having any issue before my committee,” he asserted, later adding that his committee had not held hearings on nonprofit issues since the early 1980s.

Rangel called for the Washington Post to seek an inquiry with the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, but said he would file the request himself early next week if the newspaper would not do so.

Under House rules only Members may file formal requests with the ethics committee, however, indicating that Rangel will likely be forced to file the request himself if the panel does not independently begin the investigation.

A Rangel spokesman said mid-afternoon Thursday that the lawmaker had contacted ethics Chairwoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Ohio) to initiate the inquiry.

Rangel said he will not ask the ethics panel to look into unrelated complaints that he maintains four rent-controlled apartments in New York, including one that he has used as a campaign office.

The Ways and Means chairman added that he has subsequently given notice to vacate the fourth apartment used as an office, acknowledging that his use of that space was in violation of rules governing rent-controlled apartments.

“I do agree that would present an issue and that issue has been taken away,” he said.