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The Rangel Question « The Washington Independent

Well, House Democrats managed to get through the whole John Dingell/Henry Waxman scrum without too much fallout (or so it appears). But questions linger over how party leaders will handle the Charlie Rangel mess.

You remember the tale: First it was reported in July that Rangel, the 19-term Democrat representing Harlem, had paid less rent than he should have for four New York apartments. Since then, he’s made headlines for seeking private-sector donations on congressional stationary to create the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at City College of New York. It was also discovered that he’s failed to report some real-estate income on his tax returns.

Last week, the news got worse, when The New York Times reported that Rangel had fought to preserve a multi-million offshore tax break for an oil-drilling company (Nabors) whose CEO has pledged $1 million for CCNY’s new school of public service. The story raises eyebrows because Rangel has long-pushed to close offshore tax shelters. From the Times:

But in 2007, when the United States Senate tried to crack down on the companies, Mr. Rangel, who had recently been sworn in as House Ways and Means chairman, fought to protect them. The tax shelter for the four companies was preserved, saving Nabors an estimated tens of millions of dollars annually and depriving the federal treasury of $1.1 billion in revenues over a decade, according to a Congressional analysis by the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation.

Responding to the latest report, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Cal.) issued a bland statement late Wednesday (that is, just hours before Thanksgiving when no one would be reading) to say that she’s “been assured” that an ethics investigation into Rangel’s doings will be complete by Jan. 3. “I look forward to reviewing the report at that time,” Pelosi said, without tipping her hand.

The findings of the investigation could be significant: The Ways and Means Committee oversees tax policy and Medicare, among other things. Both items are high on the list of reforms floated in recent weeks by President-elect Barack Obama. Republicans have already made a stink about Rangel, asking that he be removed as W&M’s head. Then again, next in line for the chairmanship is Rep. Pete Stark — a Berkeley Democrat who’s also one of the most liberal guys in town.

What will Obama inherit next month? Only time to tell.

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