Hastings Calls For Special Counsel in Rangel Case

Posted September 18, 2008 at 3:58pm

House ethics committee ranking member Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) called Thursday for the panel to appoint a special counsel to investigate Rep. Charlie Rangel’s (D-N.Y.) financial records.

Earlier Thursday, acting chairman of the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, Rep. Gene Green (D-Texas), announced the panel will consider a request by Rangel to investigate his finances after reports surfaced that he had failed to report rental income on his personal taxes and Congressional financial disclosure forms.

“It is my intent to recommend to Ranking Member Hastings and the Committee that we honor Chairman Rangel’s request,” Green said in a brief statement. The committee is scheduled to meet Wednesday.

Hastings subsequently called for the formation of an investigative subcommittee, criticizing the panel for not doing so despite announcing in August that it would investigate two unrelated issues also involving Rangel.

“It has been my repeatedly stated intention since July that the committee should form an investigative subcommittee to look into matters relating to Representative Rangel,” Hastings said. The panel is investigating Rangel’s lease of four apartments in a New York complex and his fundraising for a City College of New York program.

“This has been delayed for far too long. Action should have been taken in July or since the House reconvened two weeks ago,” Hastings said.

The Washington state lawmaker called for the subcommittee to be led by Green and himself, with the remaining two seats to be filled by other ethics committee members. The subcommittee should also add a special counsel to assist the investigation, he said.

“It is also my belief that the committee should retain a special counsel to staff the investigative subcommittee considering Representative Rangel’s own public admission that special expertise is needed to understand and uncover the facts of his financial records and public filings,” Hastings said.

Prompted by press reports, Rangel acknowledged earlier this month that he failed to report rental income from a villa he owns in the Dominican Republic on tax forms and Congressional financial disclosure forms. He has estimated that he could owe $10,000 in back taxes and penalties.

The Ways and Means chairman has said he will hire a forensic accountant to review all of his financial disclosure forms and tax records for the past 20 years.

Rangel’s attorney, Lanny Davis, said that the auditor will file a report to the ethics committee without giving Rangel or Davis an opportunity to review it and that Rangel will authorize the committee to release the report and the tax returns to the public.

He has also asked the ethics panel to review his personal finances related to the Dominican Republic property.

It is not clear, however, how the ethics panel would address Rangel’s latest request. According to the House ethics manual, the committee is not allowed to accept a complaint against any Member seeking re-election within 60 days of an election.