Rangel faces new ethics complaint from conservative group

Rangel faces new ethics complaint from conservative group

Embattled Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) faces a new ethics complaint Monday from a conservative watchdog group that questions the lawmaker’s support for a nonprofit group.

The National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC) filed a new complaint Monday with the ethics committee that questions a $2.6 million grant the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone provided to Alianza Dominicana, a social-services agency. Rangel sits on the board of the empowerment zone.

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NLPC is questioning whether the grant should have been provided, given what it says are outstanding liens against Alianza Dominicana.

“There are a number of real questions about whether the empowerment zone, under its own rules, could give money to this group,” said NLPC Chairman Ken Boehm. “One of its rules says grants can’t go to groups that have outstanding liens.”

In its complaint, NLPC further questions Rangel’s support for Alianza and the political donations that the nonprofit’s executive and chief supporters dole out to him. 

"The basis for this request is a series of facts that have recently been brought to light regarding questionable taxpayer funding to Alianza Dominicana supported by Rep. Rangel despite a documented failure of the nonprofit to pay its taxes, meet its payroll and manage itself responsibly," Boehm wrote. 

The complaint also highlights what Boehm calls a "mosaic of cronyism" that includes tens of thousands of dollars in political donations to Rangel’s campaign by nonprofit’s supporters and those whose firms are directly involved in building and financing the group’s new headquarters.

Alianza, according to a report Monday in the New York Post, owed $526,000 in back wages to 200 workers last month. The Post reported it has since paid $268,000 of what it owes. Among other financial woes, the Post reported that a landlord threatened to evict the group from its old offices for failing to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in rent.

The nonprofit, which runs various programs including day care and domestic-violence prevention, plans to use the money for a new $19 million headquarters in New York City. It also plans to rent space to commercial tenants and house a cultural center there.

The group has close ties to Rangel. Its founder, Moises Perez, has donated to Rangel’s campaign over the years, and in December Rangel secured a $250,000 earmark for the group, according to the Post.

Rangel spokesman Elbert Garcia has defended Rangel’s support for Alianza, saying the group has done a lot of good work for the community. He did not respond to a request for comment on Monday.

An ethics panel in July charged Rangel with 13 violations of House ethics rules and statutes. He has chosen to fight the allegations and faces a public ethics committee trial this fall.

After a 21-month investigation, the ethics panel accused Rangel of failing to pay taxes on rental income from a Dominican Republic villa; of improperly using his office to solicit millions of dollars in funds for an education center bearing his name at the City College of New York; and of improperly using a rent-stabilized apartment for his campaign offices.

Rangel has accused the committee of violating his due process rights, and has insisted he is innocent of all charges.

NLPC has filed several complaints against Rangel, including that he improperly took a corporate-sponsored trip to the Caribbean. The ethics committee eventually admonished Rangel for taking the junket, and that ruling led to Rangel relinquishing the chairmanship of the powerful Ways and Means Committee earlier this year.

This story was updated at 5:49 p.m.