Rangel Seeing the Writing on the Wall

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) saw some writing on the wall two weeks ago when his fellow Democrats ousted Rep. John Dingell (Mich.) from his chairmanship of the House Energy and Commerce Committee after he had served as senior Democrat there for decades.

Glumly, Rangel declared Dingell's defeat "the burial of the seniority system." He probably gets the feeling that seniority isn't likely to save him now. Rangel is fighting charges, published in The New York Times last week, that he helped a donor to the Charles B. Rangel School of Public Service at City College in New York. While Eugene Isenberg pledged $1 million to the school, he was also seeking the preservation of a multimillion-dollar tax loophole for his company's oil and gas drilling, which he ultimately got.

The Times reported that on the same day in February 2007 that Rangel was meeting with Isenberg to discuss his donation to the school, Isenberg also had Rangel talk with his lobbyist about keeping the loophole.

Rangel calls this a coincidence. But the list of Rangel’s coincidences have run longer than credibility can be strained. He was found to be paying rent far lower than market price in his Harlem apartment building on four apartments, one of which was used illegally as a campaign office. Rangel was also found to have underreported the value of a real estate property in Florida and to have owed taxes on $75,000 in rental income on a vacation home in the Dominican Republic. He has broken ethics rules by using his House stationery to seek support for the school named after him, and he has failed to fully report some privately sponsored trips on travel disclosure forms.

This is a huge challenge for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). If she can support Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) knocking Dingell out of his chair at the Commerce Committee on policy disagreements, it seems she will likely have to ask Rangel to hand over the House Ways and Means Committee gavel in light of the investigation the ethics committee is conducting and the questions surrounding him. It was Pelosi, after all, who promised, upon becoming Speaker, that she would "drain the swamp."


HAS THE DRAMA ENDED WITH HRC's NOMINATION, OR HAS IT JUST BEGUN? Ask A.B. returns Wednesday, Dec. 3. Please join my weekly video Q&A by sending your questions and comments to askab@thehill.com. Thank you.

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