CQ Transcripts Wire
Thursday, July 17, 2008 2:03 PM
SPEAKER: REP. CHARLES B. RANGEL, D-N.Y.
[*] RANGEL: Good morning. This looks like a pretty good crowd. That's great. Thank you so much for being here. Had some apprehensions that I might not get the same turnout.
First of all, I'm trying to think of something that would be so catchy that would demand that your newspaper print it, and so I may give several things so that it'd be (inaudible).
First of all, I normally advise people, as I have been advised, not to respond to these allegations that I abused my congressional discretion in writing on behalf of a school institution named after me because it would blow over; or, as more often I've advised members, that remember you don't have as much ink as the printers do.
So one of the things that I would use, hoping that it might catch on, is that I'm going to see how much damn ink The Washington Post has.
So if at a time that we're at war, we need education, health care, unemployment, a fiscal crisis, the opening up of our treasury and increase in billions of dollars in debt, if The Washington Post believes that this warrants front page and editorials, then I feel it's my obligation to push this to the very limit so that members whose elections may be adversely affected by unfounded rumors created by the press, that they would have a clear idea as to what the ground rules are.
So to that extent they -- another potential headline is, "Rangel Insists That the Ethics Committee Investigate the Unfounded Charges," because, first of all, nobody that can read is going to bring any charges against me, including The Washington Post, which, of course, I encourage them to do it, because then they have to follow their own foundless story, and at least that gets some coverage on this in The Washington Post.
And I would want to make certain that other members are in the position to know what they can or cannot do.
As to the allegations, I challenge The Washington Post -- and if you can find some word a little stronger than that -- to show one line in any of the letters that I have sent out on behalf of the City College institution, which their board of directors decided to name after me, where there's a solicitation for funds.
RANGEL: In all of the letters that were sent to not-for-profit foundations, rather than as they say to people who may have business before my committee, I encourage them to meet with City College to learn more about the program.
In the three areas that you can say is not listed that I was writing to a foundation, one of them was writing to David Rockefeller, and in my mind -- I was really writing to the Rockefeller foundation, but if you want to say David Rockefeller has business before my committee -- well, he wakes in the morning, I assume, just breathing he has business before my committee. But it was a Dear David letter. And I've known the guy, and his brother better when he was governor of New York.
The other one was Jack (sic) Greenberg, who while he was the executive director and (inaudible) the CEO of AIG -- that's the American Insurance Group -- the only discussions I've ever had with him was our shared experience in Korea, where we both earned the Bronze Star. And in talking and writing the letter to him, again, he was known, as he is in the philanthropic world, as the CEO of Starr Foundation, which is one of the largest in the country.
The third exception is Don Trump, who on that letter, which was one of the letters that I know is in the possession of The Washington Post, is a handwritten note that I'm sending him the material as he requested. And, of course, he has no issue before the committee.
RANGEL: I might add that one of the people that have been out there encouraging contributions, private and public, has been the longtime district attorney of New York County, in terms of this.
All of my public life, I have felt that there has been such a gap between the ability to get an education and success in America. And I've spent a lot of time in the Ways and Means Committee trying to encourage the private sector to make more of a contribution in terms of working with the education resources we have in this country, because I truly believe -- unlike some people, Condoleezza Rice and I believe that lack of education is a threat to our national security.
And I'm just so proud of the almost monthly meetings I have with the Business Roundtable, not just in talking about trade, but encouraging and asking them to fulfill a bigger obligation to their local and public and private institutions of learning.
I have been so pleased with my pushing this issue that in New York, General Electric, I think they made a $35 million commitment, but it's certainly $17 million went to our teachers' college and to our kids. Pfizer has made national contributions.
That's what I have done. That's what I do now. And that's what I'm going to continue to do.
So I assume when it's all over, even though The Washington Post cannot find any worth in what I'm doing and would want to concentrate on whether I've crossed the line, as far as the institution being named after me, that's their call.
As far as me seeking an earmark, I've taken the position and feel stronger in it now that any member who's asking for an earmark that doesn't want to make it public, I have a problem with him or her; but any member like me that has an institution of learning that's going to improve the quality of education and life for their constituents and America as a whole, hey, I'm out there and I'm going to do all I can to increase it.
RANGEL: So let's see now, before I go to questions, I'd like to emphasize the fact that in all of the letters, the form letters -- and I think we, Emile (ph), have copies of the letters that went out.
RANGEL: And they're completely -- you have access to.
And the roughest paragraph that comes the closest to smelling like the editorial said doesn't smell right is next to the last paragraph: "I will be exploring with my congressional colleagues how best to move this idea through the appropriations process" -- and for those who don't like that process, you can substitute earmarks -- "about securing funds for the planning phase of the creation of the center.
"I request your advice and assistance concerning how the donor community" -- that's foundations, particularly private and corporate foundations interested in education for grants to support the creation of the center -- "and I look forward to entering dialogue with you," and I encourage them to meet with City College.
And so, like I said, I end up as I began, let's get the ink out, help me to be creative by firing your best shot in questions. I'm so proud of what I do, and I can't possibly conceive that the creativity of the reporter exceeds what I am trying to do in terms of encouraging more funds, private and public, to go into education.
And it might be helpful if I can ask whether or not the reporter covering the story can challenge anything that I've said about the content of the letter that's in question. Since I don't know him or her -- good.
RANGEL: Do you challenge any part -- did you find in any letter, due to your creative investigation, any request for money?
QUESTION: Well, Mr. Chairman, I'll let the letters speak for themselves. But I wanted to ask you a question. It's my understanding...
RANGEL: I think that we -- listen, I'm going to answer all of your questions, but I want to set a confrontational tone so that the other papers might be able to at least report that since it's such a boring thing to me.
But as it relates to the solicitation of money in any of the letters that you had a chance to review, did you see anything that went beyond the paragraph that I read?
QUESTION: Sir, it's my understanding that this was part of the fund-raising campaign in which you participated in meetings, in which money was asked for. Is that not right?
RANGEL: Well, I thought the politicians were the ones that answered a question with a question.
But we're talking about -- what I'm asking the Ethics Committee to do is to respond to the allegation that I abused my stationery in soliciting funds for the Rangel Center when these people may have business before my committee.
Now, we cleared that fact that there's (ph) foundations and not- for-profits, so I'm not asking you that.
But rather than have all of these reporters look through the letters that I've sent to the foundation to see whether one of them tweaks and say, "If you've got a couple of bucks I'll take that too." I'm asking you.
But I'd rather take your question and let the record state that the reporter that wrote the story, which ultimately became an editorial, refused to answer whether he saw in the letter in question anything about the solicitation of funds; but rather relied on something that was not reported about subsequent meetings that I've had with foundation leaders.
RANGEL: And, quite frankly, if I felt like answering him, I have no problem in meeting with people from foundations as it relates to this.
Now, what is your question?
QUESTION: Sir, the development officer at the City College of New York told me that these letters were attempts -- several attempts to get meetings with potential donors, that you attended some of these meetings with AIG, Eugene Eisenberg (ph), Mr. Trump, and that part of that discussion, as you say, was to tell them about the project, but then part of it was to ask for money. Is that...
RANGEL: Not for me. It was to bring together those that had the money and the foundations with City College. They made their case. That's true.
And I've been asking, encouraging the Ethics Committee to investigate whether that violated any ethical rule, so that I can encourage my members to do more of it.
QUESTION: Just so we're straight, the meetings were to ask for money.
RANGEL: If you read the letter, the meetings were for the purpose that's in the letter: to bring together and encourage the foundations to meet with the people at CCNY.
QUESTION: You never asked for money in these meetings -- you or the people at CCNY.
RANGEL: We are talking about, young man, whether or not I crossed the line in writing the letters, OK? And once we can get, with your help, this before the Ethics Committee, then any other questions that they would ask as relates to my conduct I would welcome.
RANGEL: Let me ask you one question: Would you help me to get this before the Ethics Committee by asking The Washington Post to file the charges?
Let me just ask them. They may not do it.
Let the record indicate that the reporter from The Washington Post failed to respond.
QUESTION: Sir, I think you carry more weight with the Ethics Committee than I do.
RANGEL: I think I carry more weight than you...
... but I'm testing barrels of ink, that's all.
QUESTION: I haven't got any barrels with me.
RANGEL: I understand. But why don't you be cooperative? I want this story out. I want your name to be known as much as my name.
So say, "I can't answer that. I'm not the publisher or the editor. But, heck, it'll help me with my reputation," for lack of a better word, "to get this damn thing aired out." So say that you would encourage the Ethics Committee to take this up or anything that you can do to help.
QUESTION: Do you also think that the Ethics Committee should look into the issue that was (inaudible) in the New York Times about the (inaudible)?
RANGEL: I want to answer that yes, and the FEC (ph) and everyone else, but I don't want to exhaust this. This is my one chance to do this congressional thing here. And I don't want to beat up too much on The Washington Post either, but just enough to get somebody's attention that that's a crummy thing that they've done.
And, quite frankly, I've received broad support. But I would suspect that a lot of members, not knowing or believing this, may be in jeopardy -- they may jeopardize their reputation -- that they would be reluctant to reach out to not-for-profits to ask them to do good, using their congressional legislation because that's what makes them different -- "Hey, I got a letter from the congressman."
"What did he want?"
"He's encouraging us to contribute to the Red Cross, to education, to health care."
And this is especially so if you're writing not-for-profit foundations -- foundations. I don't remember any foundation coming before the Ethics Committee. So if I'm shaking up the churches and the synagogues with tax exemption, hey -- so much -- yes?
QUESTION: Aside from the wording of the letters, do you see any conflict in being part of a fund-raising campaign for something with your name on it that also -- where you're part of the campaign that's soliciting donors who also have business before the committee -- aside from what the letters say...
RANGEL: Say about the interest before the committee.
RANGEL: That's key.
What about that?
QUESTION: Well, foundations have an interest in (inaudible).
RANGEL: Well, as long as churches and -- nobody has -- that will be a part of the investigation.
My imagination -- and I have a lot of it -- cannot imagine any of these foundations having any issue before my committee. And that's where the investigation could stretch and say, "Nelson Rockefeller and Trump are so rich that when they wake up in the morning automatically there's an issue before your committee."
But I want that aired out. I'm talking about the letter and the intent. So that's what I want.
But I'd like to take other questions about this and any other subject.
QUESTION: Are there any other corporations or business leaders that you met with to talk about this project, other than AIG, Mr. Eisenberg (ph), Mr. Trump?
RANGEL: Bob Morgenthau (ph) has no business before my committee, and he's one of my biggest advocates.
I don't recall. I may have. And that's not important.
What is important is any questions that you have concerning those letters that were sent out.
QUESTION: Sir, if I might follow up, clearly, you don't feel that this has breached any rules or laws. Do you think...
RANGEL: You and I together will find that out. You and I together will find that out.
QUESTION: Do you think that meeting with business people who do have interests before the committee creates at least an appearance of a problem?
RANGEL: I don't want to get involved in some subjective stuff. I want to get involved -- did I violate the spirit of the law and any ethical standards that we have in the House of Representatives?
RANGEL: After that, if you got nothing else to do, we'll talk about my appearance.
QUESTION: Mr. Chairman, isn't -- is an appearance sometimes in politics reality? Isn't that sometimes...
RANGEL: Yes, but I wasn't trained in all that psychiatric crap about what is reality and what is -- what the hell?
If there are people that can bring in some witnesses about how they look at me and what they think about me after 50 years in politics, for me to separate whether or not I'm as great as they think there is and separating appearances from reality, I don't know. I really don't know.
All I'm saying is that, because it's objective, the record should be abundantly clear by the Ethics Committee in terms of what you can, cannot, should not do, and say, even though it's not criminal as relates to the representative of the House of Representatives, it may have an appearance of impropriety or whatever else they may think.
But since I'm convinced that The Washington Post is only doing this to spin (ph) ink and would not push this thing in front of the ethics committee, as I am, then I'm using this forum to charge the Ethics -- strike that -- to ask the Ethics Committee to clear the air so that this question of what a member can or cannot do on official stationery will be cleared up.
QUESTION: Mr. Chairman, can you imagine a scenario where a head of a corporation or a major business figure might want to cull some favor with you and have his foundation work with you and be more amenable for that reason?
RANGEL: I have to admit that I, since becoming chairman, have acquired a lot of new friends.
But assuming that foundations act within the law, code of ethics and whatnot, anyone that would think that would not only be wrong, but would be subject in themselves to criminal action, which I would be very supportive of any type of investigation or query.
RANGEL: But since I've been here, with the exception of one hearing that I held in 1983 dealing with not-for-profits, I can't imagine any not-for-profit that has any issue before my committee, that I could even remember who it was.
QUESTION: The leadership of these nonprofits are often the same people that are in charge or at least related to people that are involved in corporations.
RANGEL: I cannot think of -- Nelson Rockefeller, I can't think of any issue there. I'm trying to think of those people that had foundations, that a business person would be in charge of. Carnegie is dead. The AIG guy is a veteran. He's never been in front of my committee or discussed any legislation. And I don't think Trump has a foundation, but he hasn't given a damn nickel toward CCNY.
And we do have all of the foundations, and, quite frankly, I don't know the connection -- I don't know of any connection. General Electric wasn't -- that had nothing to do with CCNY. And I didn't send them any letter, but I damned sure leaned on them to help us out in the city of New York as they have throughout the country.
But my point there was that I do know that the CEO there is connected with the foundation.
But I can say right now, with the exception of those people I've mentioned, I don't know a connection between the business exec and the foundation. All of the letters, with the exception of those I pulled out to mention, were sent to the foundation. And in most of those cases, it's the executive director and not the company. And most all the people who started most of these foundations are dead, anyway.
QUESTION: One more please?
RANGEL: As many as you want. But can you tell me whether you would encourage them to bring this thing before the Ethics Committee?
QUESTION: I can report in the paper what you said today, sir.
RANGEL: That's evasive.
But I'm used to that.
QUESTION: Are you -- so can we infer -- would it be safe for us to infer that you are not planning to change the way you go about raising money for the Rangel Center? You'll continue to use congressional stationery in...
RANGEL: God damn, I think -- I really think -- I think you're being annoying now because you cannot be creative.
I tried to make it abundantly clear. I want to clear the air as to what a member can or cannot do. So you can infer that I'm hoping to get a clarification that will support what I have done. And as I did say earlier, so that I can encourage other members to do the same thing.
Clearly, if they want to address it and say another way and whatnot, then I will do that.
QUESTION: And, sir, can you tell us were these letters sent out under the frank or no?
RANGEL: I don't think so. I don't know. But I consider it official business.
QUESTION: Mr. Rangel, between (OFF-MIKE) the decision will you suspend the way that you do fund-raising or (OFF-MIKE)
RANGEL: (inaudible) well, I have to take another look at what the hell is in the letter that violates anything and not be intimidated by The Washington Post merely because they can't think of anything better to write about.
There's nothing in the letter that's soliciting funds. And I always encourage people in the private sector.
And this goes far beyond this idea that I've been working with City College. It's interesting with City College -- and I'm going to get back to the housing thing -- is that when I was a kid on Lenox Avenue, City College was on a hill. I live on -- lived on 32nd Street, City College is on 35th Street. It's a castle. I had no clue what the hell white folks were doing going up the hill to go in that building. I had no idea it was a college. And I had no idea who went to college. I just didn't know.
And so when I ultimately found out and saw how Dr. Gregory Williams turned this college around to be one of the first-class education institutions in the country, I went in and asked, "What can I do to help?" Because the tuition at that time was low, the composition was multiracial, they were all poor.
Someplace -- in one of the stories it indicates that I'm the chairman of a trust for Ann Kheel, who's the -- the deceased wife of Ted Kheel, who's a well-known New York businessman, lawyer.
RANGEL: And they found out about my affection for City College, and they said that they wanted their trust funds to be going to minorities and those seeking education. It was the same criteria that you needed to get into City College.
And so my love and affection for City College has been so demonstrated that their board of directors named this school, which is a brownstone, after me.
So I'm going to do all I can, but I'm not going to jeopardize other members of Congress by doing this and encourage them to do it until I am abundantly clear that the way to do this is to make certain that we're as clean as the driven snow. And then not only do I intend to continue to do this, but I'm then going to ask The Washington Post for a public apology.
QUESTION: What role do you expect to have with the center once it does open?
RANGEL: To encourage well-known people -- Colin Powell, economists, Obama, the president -- to try to let young people know who struggle hard for education that as they try to decide where they want to make their careers to please give public service an opportunity; not just public office, but administrators, support teams, getting involved in making certain that you make some contribution to improve the quality of life through the public sector.
And, you know, one of the biggest problems that we have today is federal judges. I mean, they're not even paid what law school graduates are being paid. I'm trying hard to find some bill in Ways and Means. What the heck have that got to do with judges' pay? Well, some way to find the funds to pay these judges because of my (inaudible).
I've been in public life all of my life. I started off in the Army, 18 to 22, and then went to school, became an assist United States attorney, became a member of the New York State Assembly, became a member of Congress. My wife said I've never really had a job in all my life.
But the point is that it's so rewarding that I want to encourage people to do it, and this institution will be there.
So, yes, if I can bring in someone in charge of an agency, administration, of various diverse backgrounds, to speak to them -- a lot of my friends are professors; that's all they do, is bring in big shots to talk to the kids using their prestige to give their experience, and they do this on a weekly basis. And I look forward to playing that role and trying to find role models that are in public life to encourage the kids to think about it.
And certainly after I leave here I intend to do even more. There's so many schools that have asked me to do this. St. John's law school, New York University. But this one was one that I never thought I could get involved in, and so getting an honorary degree from them means more than the other 50 honorary degrees that I've gotten over the years.
QUESTION: Sir, are you going to ask for more earmarks as well for this project?
RANGEL: Well, yes, damn it. The earmarks won't go through, because we can't get it through now.
But I want to make it abundantly clear: No matter what the earmark is for, I'm very suspicious if the member does not want to be identified with that earmark. And I only hope that my colleagues agree with me that when they have earmarks like I did and do for institutions of learning, that they're so proud of it that they let the world know and want to do it again.
The only thing that would restrict it is the limited funds and the competing needs that I have in my community. But in terms of reinforcing what I've done, that's it.
I haven't forgotten you (inaudible).
QUESTION: Do you think that (inaudible)?
RANGEL: I wouldn't have done it if I thought the rules were unclear.
But to make certain that even reporters can understand it, I want to go back to the Ethics Committee and make it even more clear, for those that can't find anything else to write about, so that they can move on and find something else.
I'm certain that there are a lot of things that are not as clear as we would want it. But I would never have done it if I thought the rule was unclear.
RANGEL: See, that's what I want: creative thinking.
And, if no one files the complaint and if the reporter fails to get The Washington Post to file the complaint, then I'm directing my staff to show me how I can file an inquiry against myself. Now, if that can't get in your newspaper, I don't know what else.
RANGEL: Thank you so much.
QUESTION: When will you do that?
RANGEL: Oh, for crying out loud.
As soon as possible. We're leaving today at 3:30, 4:00. We won't be back till Tuesday. And staff better be prepared to have papers ready to send to the chairlady -- person -- of the Ethics Committee, saying in view of the awkward position I find myself in, the reporter in the newspaper failing to indicate that they intend to file charges, that in order to clear the air for me and other members of Congress that might be inclined to do the same, for good reason I'm asking for an inquiry from the -- thank you so much. Thank you.
QUESTION: Were you looking at presidential libraries in the beginning or why was...
RANGEL: No, I thought -- one black guy for president I thought was enough. So...
QUESTION: (inaudible) think this was a commonplace thing? And did you check with the Ethics Committee, if so? If not, why didn't you check (inaudible)?
RANGEL: The whole concept was to encourage CCNY to focus on public service as a goal and career goal for some of its graduate members. And that's that.
Now, what's your question got to do with that? It wasn't presidential.
QUESTION: ... that you thought this was fairly commonplace and it wasn't...
RANGEL: I had other places that I worked with, John Sexton, NYU, the new president of St. John's law school. All these people, I said, "Do more, do more, do more, do more."
But no one had the diverse stewards (ph) -- students as CCNY, and it's right there in my neighborhood, three blocks away. This whole idea of taking my papers and having an office, this is their idea. I don't need an office now or when I get out. I got more offices than I need.
But, of course, I would like to believe that they thought that having my name identified with this would increase their ability to get funds.
RANGEL: Does that answer that? OK?
QUESTION: Sir, in your prepared statement, there's a long list of other educational projects that you've been involved with. Have you also used your congressional stationery to...
RANGEL: No. No. No, but the speeches that I've given to them is more, in the way I'm looking at them, I think, is far more effective than a letter, the last one being last Wednesday at the National Press Club.
Were you there?
QUESTION: No, sir.
RANGEL: Anybody represent your newspaper?
QUESTION: I don't know, sir.
RANGEL: Check that out, because most of my talk -- I had Jim McCrery there, who's a Republican from my committee. And I told them, "You can come to me with tariffs. You can come to me with taxes. You can come to me with a whole lot of things. But unless you're prepared to say that a healthy, educated workforce is just as important to you, then my support for a lot of the things you're talking about is going to be, 'Where is the private sector? Are you just going to be concerned with shareholders? Are you concerned with the productivity and the health of this great United States?'
"And if you don't concentrate on these issues, then we're going to lose our middle class. And the middle class is the heart of America."
I'll give you the rest of the speech after, but it was very good. And the CEOs were there.
So in answer to your question -- no, I talk to them eyeball to eyeball. And the CEOs that really made substantial contributions, not to the Rangel thing, like Esoff (sic), John -- GE. He's good. We're working together all over the country.
OK. I think I've exhausted that.
QUESTION: In all your talk about the reporters, I'm wondering, is there -- do you have -- are you suspicious of the motives behind these stories?
RANGEL: You know, some people say that they're after you, and I said, "I hope they catch me, so that we can put this aside."
I find myself so fortunate that in 50 years of public service and 38 years in the Congress that no one has ever come close to challenging my honesty and integrity. And then I feel blessed that if this is their best shot, I'm still lucky.
So someone said that if they -- if (inaudible) people are out to get you, and they really are -- it's not paranoid, but I...
... no, I -- if someone was to try to convince me of that, I could not possibly think of anybody that would lend themself to this tomfoolery.
RANGEL: Now, there are reports that Charles Rangel is living in four subsidized apartments in the city of New York. Seventy-eight years old -- I was born in this community and stayed, and was raised until I was 17, 18 years old; went into the Army, came back and lived at the same place.
And after completing school and getting married and having my kids at the same place I became a big shot and decided to move uptown three blocks away from 132nd Street and Lenox Avenue to 135th and Lenox Avenue.
My beloved Harlem was not a very attractive place at the time: burnt down buildings, abandoned buildings, empty lots. It was not a point of destination for anyone looking for decent housing.
As a result of local, state and private efforts, and the fact that I'm known as the father of the low-income housing bill -- which 90 percent of affordable housing has been placed -- and, of course, as a result of the empowerment zone, my community has bounced back in such a way that I'm just so proud to be a member of the community.
At the time that I moved into what is called luxury apartments -- well, it wasn't luxury at the time -- it was the only place that a person with kids could move in and enjoy some degree of comfort. And that is why the governor of the state of New York, the former bar president, state legislators have moved in.
RANGEL: I'm not certain whether we had rate stabilization at the time, but rent control covered most all of the city.
Rent stabilizations says that the landlord is entitled to get increases in the lease every two years. And, ultimately, when you reach a limit, the apartment reaches $2,000, it goes on the market, whatever the market is.
When I first -- when my wife first heard from one of the local pastors of one of the popular churches, who's still around, that he got promoted and with the promotion came a place for him to live, and he said he had two small apartments that he converted into one and suggested she look at it.
She looked at it, fell in love with it, and ultimately we moved into it.
That is two -- what they call the four apartments.
Some time later, a studio apartment that was next door became vacant. And knowing how the kids and relatives and friends sometimes would stay over in the brownstone that we sold when we moved in there, I thought this was an ideal place to rest, to study, play poker, but most of all -- we had a Murphy bed put in there so that if family and friends wanted to spend the night they could, and for me to be able to walk out of my apartment anytime I wanted, next door, to do my studies and do other things if my wife had guests.
If I was to leave the apartment, of course the landlord under the law comes in, slaps some paint on the wall, and increases the rent -- under the law.
I have -- my rent has doubled under the -- because I've been there for so long -- under the gradual increases in the rent under rent stabilization.
RANGEL: I pay the maximum rent under the law.
The inference is -- and let me get rid of -- the campaign headquarters became vacant and the campaign moved in there several years ago. They had decided and informed the landlord that we were not going to extend the lease, which expires in October, because we needed more space.
So right, wrong or indifferent, they've been on notice that we're leaving. And we've also found a headquarters.
So now we're dealing with the so-called three apartments, two of which was combined into one before I got there.
Now, the allegation is that the difference between the rent -- the legal rent I pay and the marketplace rent is a gift, and that's what I have to wrestle with.
Well, first of all, there's nobody that can tell me what the market rent is or should be because there's no comparable apartment.
Second, if I knew what the difference was there's no way for me to pay it. It would take a damn fool to tell the landlord that I have decided that if I didn't live here or if the apartment was vacated and you could go to the so-called private market what rent you would demand and just give him the gift.
So there's no gift that he's giving me because he's following the law, I'm following the law. And there is no way in the world, since I live there, that they could evict me because I pay my rent on time.
So there are many people that live in Lenox Terrace because there was no other place to live. And to leave because of these accusations never entered my mind.
You have a follow-up?
QUESTION: Not on the two combined into one but on the studio. You said that...
RANGEL: I love it.
I mean, I really love it. The rent is right. I love it. It's next door to me. It's used every day that I'm home, especially during the breaks.
QUESTION: You said that when an apartment would become available in the building they would slap some paint on it and then charge market rate.
RANGEL: When this happened, the law did not allow them to do it. And so they would have to give me just a sharp increase in rent because it was a new tenant.
Now there is a law that some landlords have abused that allowed them to go beyond just the sharp increase but to modernize and luxurize it.
And a lot of them have been guilty of fraud because they filed for the empty apartments, saying they put down new floors, new sinks, new this, new that, and they didn't do it.
So there's been a lot of fraud by landlords. That has not occurred in my buildings.
In my building, which some people have complaints, many of the people that live in the apartment -- their brother died, they were visitors, they stayed -- they either were not on the lease, they did not live in the apartment and the landlords in other places, far more vigorous than where I live, would force them to leave because they didn't either live there, they subleased, or they didn't have a lease or whatever.
In every case that the tenants' association brought to me some adjustments were made for that tenant. I know of no tenant that the tenants' association brought to me -- and I'd like to mention the kind and wonderful letter I got from the head of the tenants' association that said, "Please don't leave us. Your presence and your help here has been very instrumental in getting services."
QUESTION: When you're talking about the rules as far as having -- there have been issues where, you know, somebody's brother died, things like that, well, your name was on the lease for that office and you weren't living there. I know that you're saying that that's not why you're leaving, but -- do you agree that that presents an issue...
RANGEL: Yes, I do agree that that would present an issue, and that issue has been taken away. Yes. But I don't see where upstairs, where I live with my family, is an issue at all.
QUESTION: Are you going to pay any back rent, either to the...
RANGEL: How could I? Think it out.
QUESTION: To the office. For the office.
RANGEL: Think it out. I paid the rent...
QUESTION: What about an equivalent donation to the Rangel Center?
RANGEL: That's funny...
... but, no.
You're bucking for a job at The Washington Post, right?
No, but whatever is not appropriate -- there's absolutely, in my opinion, no penalty except to move, and we have made that movement earlier. And that's documented by the place we're moving to, where we are trying to get them -- the landlord there to fix it up so that it meets our needs.
QUESTION: So do you plan to mention the apartment issue in your letter to the Ethics Committee (inaudible) when you come back?
RANGEL: Not unless they want to include that in their complaint.
QUESTION: But, no, you don't plan (OFF-MIKE)
RANGEL: I don't think that's an issue.
RANGEL: Where I live and how I live, if it's legal, I think it's a personal issue.
But as a public official, I think anyone has the right to raise anything that they think is inappropriate.
QUESTION: Why not do it, though, just to clear the air? You mentioned...
RANGEL: I think that's a little too close to home. I really wish I felt so independent I could say it's nobody's damn business where I live, as long as I'm paying the legal rent. But I -- I don't suspect there would be a lot of members that would want to be moving in with me, so I won't be clearing the air for them.
What I'm doing now to a large part is for other members. I mean, I don't really think The Washington Post story on this is going to do anything to my political career. But I do believe if members think that writing letters like this and encouraging people to meet with not-for-profits -- if they think that "remember what happened to Rangel," I want them to say, "Yes, Rangel whipped their butts too, didn't he?"
So that's why I'm not going beyond this.
But this doesn't mean that there are not -- people who make these allegations are not prepared to bring these things out formally, because the whole Rangel housing thing is the gift between my legal rent and the so-called market value of my apartment in some other building in some other community nearby.
And the two points I make is that nobody can determine what that value would be. But if, hypothetical, we found one, the gap between what I pay and what it would be if I move my family out and lived someplace else -- who do I pay that to, if I wanted to stay there? Give it to the landlord? Forget about it.
So where's the gift? Is he saying you're getting special treatment because you're a member of Congress? No. Every member in that building that's stabilized can't be kicked out, as much as they may want to.
I hate to end this. If there's something that you can think of, please call, because it's very -- more important. There's two things that's important to me -- I'm only trying to get into the news in saying this. One, is to make it clear to every member what the appropriate behavior is in writing to not-for-profits to encourage them to support other not-for-profits; and, two, to whup The Washington Post.
And that's not for me, either, because I don't even know -- until today I hadn't even seen the reporter, and so I don't have any animosity to him. But I am concerned about new members that may not be able to do what I'm able to do today.