Democrats lampooned Arizona Sen. John McCain last summer as a filthy rich Republican who was out-of-touch with everyday Americans after he stumbled through a question about the number of properties he owned.
But today, as similar and more serious questions swirl around one of their own, Democrats are taking a much different approach.
Charles B. Rangel, the 79-year-old chairman of the powerful House and Ways Committee, is accused of ignoring tax laws, having ethical lapses and failing to disclose his assets over the years. Still, Democrats continue to block Republican efforts to, at least temporarily, take the gavel out of the hands of the 20-year incumbent and sound poised to wait for the House ethics committee to determine whether he is guilty of any wrongdoing.
Those findings could go a long way in explaining whether the guy responsible for the committee overseeing the IRS and the federal tax code is a liar or someone who never figured out how the system really works.
They also could provide answers to two lingering questions: How many properties has Rangel owned? And how has he afforded them all on Congressional salary that today normally hovers around $174,000?
Last week, HUMAN EVENTS requested a list of the properties he currently owns from his Capitol Hill office, but did not receive a response.
Regardless, recent financial disclosure forms and newspaper reports have provided a pretty clear picture of Rangel’s involvement in at least seven different properties over the years in New York, New Jersey, Washington, DC, Florida and the Dominican Republic. In some cases, he allegedly sidestepped tax and rental laws by simultaneously claiming different homes as his primary residence. In others, he allegedly failed to pay taxes and failed to report rental income.
In his amended disclosure forms filed last month, Rangel’s overall worth is pegged at upwards of 2.5 million, which provides a vague explanation of how he has bankrolled so many properties on his salary.
According to those disclosures, Rangel has owned a villa in the Dominican Republic worth somewhere between $100,001 and $250,000 and raked in as much as $15,000 in rent. (His 2008 report says the same property was worth as much as $500,000 and did not yield any rental income.) Last year, The New York Times reported that Rangel failed to report $75,000 in rental income on the Dominican Republic villa. He later sent $10,800 to the IRS and New York state to cover the back taxes and related penalties.
The disclosures also show Rangel failed to declare empty lots he owned in New Jersey, which were assessed between $1,001 and $15,000. Recent reports indicate he has a history of being delinquent in paying taxes on those properties.
Rangel, a Harlem native and one of the founders of the Black Congressional Caucus, also owned a property in Florida that he sold in 2008 for as much as $250,000.
In updated financial forms, Rangel also disclosed for the first time a capital gain of between $500,000 and $1 million he received from the sale of his childhood Harlem brownstone in 2004 to the Bethel AME Church, according to the National Legal and Policy Center, a conservative ethics group that has filed several complaints against Rangel. (Rangel is under additional scrutiny for writing a letter in support of Bethel AME’s application for low-income housing tax credits in order to renovate an apartment building on the same street.) NLPC also accuses the New Yorker of failing to report rental income from 1993 to 2001 on his childhood brownstone, even though public records show tenants were living there.
All said, the updated forms report that Mr. Rangel’s total net worth is between $1,028,024 and $2,495,000. That is nearly double the amount listed in the original disclosure statement filed in May 2008.
This served as the backdrop to the political drama on Captiol Hill this week where Rep. John Carter, Texas Republican, pushed a resolution calling for Rangel to step down from his chairmanship position until the ethics committee delivers its findings.
“We cannot tolerate a double standard in this country, one for the common man and another for the rich and powerful,” Carter, a former state judge, said. “To allow Mr. Rangel to continue to serve as chairman . . . sends a clear message to the American public that this government refuses to abide by the same laws they impose on the working people of this country.”
The Democrat-controlled chamber blocked the effort by sending the matter to the ethics committee. Two Mississippi Democrats, Representatives Travis W. Childer and Gene Taylor, voted with 151 Republicans in seeking to remove Rangel, while six Republican voted with 240 Democrats in passing the resolution to the ethics committee.
Yesterday, the Congressional Black Caucus, responding in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, wrote: “Regrettably, the minority has repeatedly attempted to make an end-run around the bipartisan procedures for investigating possible ethics issues. These Republican attempts to presume guilt before an investigation has been completed violate the core American principle of the presumption of innocence. These attempts also will discourage members in the future from self-reporting any potential ethics issues, and will distract from the important work of the House to fix the economy, put Americans back to work, and improve access to health care.”
Rangel’s shady real estate dealings go back at least to his first bid for Congress in 1970, according to The New York Post. That year, one of his opponents in the Democratic primary accused him of violating the terms of a $39,350 low-interest loan that he had received five years earlier from the city to renovate a home he inherited from his grandfather into several apartment units. The loan program was established for building owners who could not afford to rehab their properties without financial help. Rangel’s opponent charged that he violated the terms of the loan because “he was living in one of the apartments that were supposed to be rented only to poor people,” The Post reported.
Following the successful campaign, Rangel purchased a four-bedroom house in the Crestwood neighborhood of Washington, DC and applied for the homestead exemption, declaring the property as his primary residence. But Rangel continued to live in the Harlem row house, and in 1989 moved into three rent-stabilized apartments in the Lenox Terrace building in Harlem that he combined into a 2,500 square foot home. (He later rented another studio in the building that he used as an office). To qualify for the low-cost rentals in the Lenox, he claimed the apartment as his primary residence.
The following year, The Post says he received a $60,000 loan on his childhood home, the brownstone in Harlem — again declaring it his primary residents in order to get a low–interest rate.
“Rangel was listing three addresses as his primary residence, and, at least between 1995 and 2000, getting tax breaks because of it,” The Post says.
He sold his Washington home in 2000 for $500,000