Rangel Determined to Keep Ways and Means Chairmanship

Posted September 16, 2008 at 1:16pm

House Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) will not step down from his position and has not been pressured to do so by Democratic leadership, his attorney said Tuesday.

Rangel’s attorney, Lanny Davis, told reporters in a conference call that Rangel “has not considered, nor has it ever been on the table, that he would step aside from his current position as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. Published reports in this morning newspapers suggesting that Mr. Rangel has been pressured by the speaker or any member of the Democratic leadership are false reports.”

Davis said that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) “told Mr. Rangel that she was pleased at the initiative he has taken to in effect authorize an investigation of himself.”

Since July, Rangel has been dogged by reports that he has failed to properly disclose his assets on his tax forms and on Congressional financial disclosure forms.

Rangel had already asked the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct committee to investigate his leasing arrangements on apartments in New York and his fundraising for a City College of New York program. Davis said the ethics committee has contacted him about both of those matters and is looking into them.

Last week, Rangel also asked the committee to review his purchase and rental of a villa in the Dominican Republic, and Sunday night he announced that he will hire a forensic accounting firm to prepare a comprehensive review of his tax and financial disclosure forms for the past 20 years, which apparently have myriad errors. That report will be submitted to the ethics committee as well.

Davis said Rangel decided not to step aside while those various investigation are pending because he “believes that facts should prevail, not innuendo or editorial opinion or the partisan actions of the House Republican leadership. And his colleagues agree with that judgment.”

House Republicans have demanded and several major newspaper editorials have suggested Rangel step down while the investigations go forward.

Davis said Rangel himself will have nothing more to say about the matter because “it is now a subject that is down to the facts and nothing but the facts,” and he has advised Rangel to simply leave the matter in the hands of the ethics committee.

In a half-hour meeting in the Ways and Means offices Tuesday afternoon, Rangel assured members of the New York delegation he was moving to pay his back taxes and had no intention of giving up his gavel, participants said.

“Mistakes were obviously made, but he’s owned up to them and obviously he’ll set them right,” Rep. John Hall (D-N.Y.) said after exiting the meeting. He said the delegation is standing behind Rangel, an assessment backed by Rep. José Serrano (D-N.Y.), who said their message to the embattled Harlem Democrat was, “Just move forward and do you what you have to do.”

A spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee issued a statement on Tuesday afternoon that stated, “In a time of financial crisis, Democrats are proudly standing by an individual who not only circumvented the very tax hikes he himself has authored, but then escaped responsibility by claiming he is incapable of keeping his own financial house in order.”