Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) has created a legal defense fund to help pay attorneys' fees following a lengthy ethics investigation that ended with his censure on the House floor.
The 20-term lawmaker has been given permission by the House ethics committee to create the Charles B. Rangel Legal Defense Trust, which is soliciting donations of up to $5,000. Rangel press secretary Hannah Kim confirmed the creation of the fund, first reported by the website Politics Daily.
In a statement, Rangel said the fund will help him "retain counsel for on-going activities related to the recently-concluded ethics investigations and other on-going matters" and to combat new charges brought before the Federal Election Commission (FEC) by a conservative nonprofit group.
The FEC earlier this month opened a probe into allegations by the National Legal and Policy Center that the former Ways and Means Committee chairman improperly used funds from his National Leadership PAC to pay for his legal counsel in his ethics case.
"The repeated filings of allegations, no matter how unsubstantiated, by the National Legal Policy Committee, a politically-motivated right wing group dedicated to eviscerating civil rights and labor union protections, have led me to this action," Rangel said in the statement.
The fund is permitted to accept corporate donations, but may not accept money from federally registered lobbyists, Politics Daily reported. Former New York State Comptroller H. Carl McCall will serve as trustee of the fund.
"All contributions to the trust will be reported as required on a quarterly basis with the committee as well as the Legislative Resource Center for public disclosure," Rangel said.
Rangel's legal expenses were at the center of his complaints over the House ethics committee's handling of his investigation.
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.
Rangel said the committee did not give him an ample chance to find new legal representation, but documents released by the ethics committee showed that it had advised him of the option to establish a legal defense fund to pay his lawyers.
The House on Dec. 2 voted 333-79 to censure Rangel for 11 House ethics violations. The punishment was the steepest the House could hand down, short of expulsion.
"I am confident any continuing or subsequent investigations will find a similar lack of any intent to violate any rules or any actions designed in any way to personally benefit me or my family," Rangel said.
—This story was updated at 2:08 p.m.