After censure, Rangel faces new ethics probe

Censured Rep. Charles Rangel is not in the clear yet when it comes to his ethics problems: he faces a Federal Election Commission (FEC) probe into alleged misuse of campaign funds for his legal defense. 

The FEC, according to the New York Post, has taken up a complaint filed by the right-leaning National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC) that Rangel (D-N.Y.) used funds from his National Leadership PAC to pay for legal counsel for the House ethics case that ended in his censure last week.

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To avoid paying legal services out of their own pockets, lawmakers are only permitted to use money from their individual campaign accounts or legal defense funds.

The 20-term lawmaker, who was once the chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, on Sunday called his censure "embarrassing" and "painful" in his first television interview since he was dealt the punishment.

Rangel's trial went ahead last month without the congressman having legal representation. His attorneys at the firm Zuckerman Spaeder dropped him as a client in October, and he later told the ethics committee he could no longer afford their services after sinking $2 million into his defense.

NLPC's complaint, filed late last month, accuses Rangel of violating ethics rules by allowing his PAC to pay Zuckerman Spaeder $293,000 in 2010 and $100,000 to the law firm Orrick, Herrington and Sutcliffe in Jan. 2009.

A spokeswoman for Rangel noted that the attorney for his National Leadership PAC "has authorized the use of its funds for its legal expenses." The spokeswoman also said the NLPC is "not an unbiased organization" and accused it of making "inaccurate allegations."

"As you know, a complaint can be filed by any entity and it should not be taken as the gospel," Rangel press secretary Hannah Kim said.

Rangel was sanctioned for committing 11 violations of House ethics rules for improperly using his office to solicit donations for an educational center in his name, as well as filing incorrect financial disclosures and tax forms that failed to list income earned on his Dominican villa. The 80-year-old was also ordered to pay restitution to the government.


—This post was updated at 10:43 a.m.