Rangel’s Legal Bills Top $1 Million
Amid multiple House ethics committee investigations into his personal finances and other matters, Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel’s (D-N.Y.) legal bills have topped $1 million this cycle.The New York lawmaker reported paying $255,000 to multiple law firms in his more recent campaign finance report. Those payments bring his legal bills to nearly $1.09 million for the current year and more than $1.15 million since Rangel first called for an ethics review of allegations against him in July 2008.The Committee on Standards of Official Conduct launched an investigative subcommittee in September 2008 to review Rangel’s personal finances, including his failure to report rental income from a Dominican beach house.The ethics panel is examining Rangel’s lease of three rent-controlled apartments in his district — the lawmaker earlier gave up a fourth unit that he had used as an office in the same building — and his use of House parking facilities for long-term vehicle storage, which is prohibited.In addition, the investigation is focused on Rangel’s fundraising efforts for a City College of New York facility named in his honor. In December, the ethics panel expanded the investigation to include an alleged quid pro quo — legislative action in exchange for donations to the college. Rangel has denied any wrongdoing in the matter.The ethics committee expanded its investigation a second time earlier this month to include Rangel’s August disclosure of more than $500,000 worth of assets that he failed to previously report on his annual personal finance disclosures.Rangel’s most recent Federal Election Commission report shows the bulk of his third-quarter legal spending was a single payment of $236,159 to the law firm Zuckerman Spaeder, which is representing Rangel before the ethics committee.The report also includes payments to Washington, D.C.-based attorney John Kern totaling more than $14,000 and to Oldaker, Belair & Wittie totaling more than $4,400.The report did not include payments to the accounting firm Watkins, Meegan, Drury & Co., which Rangel has hired to complete a “forensic audit— of 20 years of his financial statements, including his local, state and federal tax returns.Rangel said in September that such a report would be turned over to the House ethics panel, which could then opt to make the report public.The senior House Democrat is also the subject of a separate ethics committee investigation into privately sponsored trips to the Caribbean in 2007 and 2008, along with four other members of the Congressional Black Caucus. That probe is examining whether those trips, sponsored by the Carib News Foundation, violate House gift rules.That investigation also targets Reps. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (Mich.), Bennie Thompson (Miss.) and Donald Payne (N.J.) as well as Del. Donna Christensen (D-Virgin Islands).Among those lawmakers, only Kilpatrick reported legal fees in the third quarter of 2009.According to her FEC report, the Michigan Democrat made a single $10,000 payment to the Washington, D.C.-based law firm Sandler Reiff & Young, which specializes in “the formation and operation of non-profit organizations, campaign finance, election and political law and government ethics and the regulation of lobbying,— according to its Web site.Neither Payne, Thompson nor Christensen has reported any legal fees to date in the 2009 cycle.