Rangel cites McConnell, Lott to justify ‘Rangel Center’

Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) cited two prominent Republicans in attempting to fend off ethics charges.

In documents released Thursday night, Rangel argued there are precedents for allowing members of Congress to name entities/centers after members of Congress.

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A House ethics panel on Thursday released a wide-ranging report charging Rangel with breaking a slew of House rules, including the alleged use of official stationery to solicit donations for a public policy center named after Rangel at the City College of New York (CCNY).

Rangel, a liberal Democrat, cited two conservatives in defending his actions.

In a 32-page response to the ethics charges, Rangel stated, “It was plainly permissible under House rules for Congressman Rangel to allow CCNY to name the Center for him. The House Ethics Manual expressly encourages Members to ‘lend their names to legitimate charitable enterprises and otherwise promote charitable goals.’ ”

Rangel noted that other members of Congress have “donated their papers for institutions bearing their names under virtually identical circumstances.”

He stated that Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) raised funds from corporate donors to launch the McConnell Center for Political Leadership at the University of Louisville. Furthermore, Rangel claimed, former Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and the late Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.) “established centers at universities during their respective tenure in Congress and participated in fundraising for them.”

He added that the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) “donated his papers to the Byrd Center for Legislative Studies at Shepard [sic] University in Shepardstown [sic], West Virginia.”

However, unlike Rangel, the senators were never accused of using official congressional stationary to solicit funds for the centers named after them.

Rangel asserted that the House determined that funds for the Rangel Center “did not provide an improper financial benefit to [him] when it approved an appropriations for the Center. That decision forecloses these ethics charges.”

The ethics panel that brought the charges strongly disputed Rangel’s claims: “The Members of the House did not have the information regarding the Rangel Center that has been discovered by the Investigative Subcommittee.”

In a July 22 letter to the House ethics committee labeled “Confidential” that was released Thursday, the Democratic chairman — Rep. Gene Green (Texas) — and the Republican ranking member — Rep. Jo Bonner (Ala.) — of the investigatory subcommittee write that Rangel would have directly benefited from the Rangel Center.

“The donors solicited by [Rangel] contributed in excess of $8 million to the Rangel Center. Although the contributions were made by the donors to the CCNY, the contributions benefited [Rangel].

“The plans for the Rangel Center include a ‘well-furnished office for Congressman Rangel’ and an archivist/librarian to organize and maintain [Rangel’s] congressional papers.”

Green and Bonner concluded that they found a “substantial reason to believe that [Rangel’s] conduct violated the House gift rule.”

This story was posted at 7:05 a.m. and updated at 12:03 p.m.