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Monday, September 15, 2008

Time For Rangel to Step Down

Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) presently chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, which writes much of the country's body of tax law; before the Democrats took over the House in 2007, Rangel was the ranking member of Ways and Means for years.

It goes without saying, then, that Rangel should be expected to both know the basics of tax law and go out of his way to ensure his own compliance. Inexplicably, Rangel has not come close to meeting that standard. I'll leave aside the fact that he's been able to rent several New York apartments at below-market rates; while that practice might be questionable, to my knowledge it doesn't involve tax-law issues.

But recent reports that Rangel failed to report rental income from a villa he owns in the Dominican Republic were very troubling, even if one accepts his aw-shucks-I-didn't-realize excuse. Rangel has said he wasn't aware of the income, and that he received it sporadically, but that's not acceptable from a guy in his position. And the latest reports, concerning a Florida condo, are even worse. They include evidence that Rangel incorrectly filled out his congressional financial statement (which Ted Stevens could now tell you is filed under penalty of perjury charges). In addition, Rangel appears to have used congressional letterhead to solicit contributions for an academic center named after him.

Rangel has asked the House ethics committee to investigate his conduct. Personally I don't think that's enough. We should expect more of any member of congress, but for the chair of Ways and Means to have behaved like this is just unacceptable. At a minimum, Rangel should surrender his committee chairmanship. Even better, he ought to retire from the House and let someone else represent his district.

Posted by Jonah Gelbach on September 15, 2008 at 07:59 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink


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