By Christopher Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
As House GOP leaders called for his removal from the powerful chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.) announced yesterday that he will repay an unspecified amount in back federal, state and local taxes on unreported income from a Dominican Republic vacation property.
The Harlem Democrat will file amended federal, state and local tax returns to reflect $75,000 in income from the beachfront villa that he previously failed to list on tax and congressional financial disclosure forms, said his attorney Lanny Davis.
At a news conference today, Rangel planned to release a letter he sent to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) explaining the Punta Cana resort deal and another asking the House ethics committee to add the matter to a burgeoning inquiry. The committee is examining the congressman's rental of several New York apartments at below-market rates and his fundraising entreaties to corporations and foundations on behalf of an academic center that bears his name, his attorney said.
Pelosi also heard yesterday from nine House Republican leaders, who demanded that she remove Rangel from the chairmanship.
In their letter, the GOP leaders sought to tie Rangel's troubles to their larger political critique of the Democratic-controlled Congress as failing to take action against high gasoline prices and a slumping economy.
"Given Chairman Rangel's continuing ethical lapses, he cannot effectively carry out his duties as chairman," wrote the Republicans, led by House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio). "Thus, in order to remove one obstacle to this Democratic Congress actually addressing and solving working families' concerns, you, as the Speaker of the House, must insist that Rep. Rangel step down from his Ways and Means Committee chairmanship pending an investigation of his ethical lapses."
Davis, a former special counsel to President Bill Clinton, said Boehner's move "ironically demonstrates the very rush to judgment and hyperpartisanship that he used to complain about when it was allegedly coming from the opposition party. He should be embarrassed that he engages in such cheap shots at the very time that the [presidential] nominee of his party is calling on Republicans to be above that kind of politics."
Although Davis said last week that Rangel probably would not owe federal taxes, a more comprehensive accounting of the resort property finances indicates that the congressman will owe a "relatively modest" amount to the federal government as well as to state and local authorities, Davis said.
Rangel has said that he was unaware of how much rental income his property was generating. He also acknowledged that after two years, the resort developer decided to waive interest on loans for Rangel and other early investors.
Brendan Daly, a spokesman for Pelosi, said Republicans should let the ethics panel do its job. He said Pelosi will not strip Rangel of his chairmanship.
"This letter demonstrates that Republican leaders have no confidence in their members serving on the Ethics Committee," Daly said in an e-mailed statement.
In July, Democrats blocked a resolution by Boehner that would have publicly censured Rangel over his rental of the New York apartments. The measure called the deal a violation of the House gift ban and said Rangel had "brought discredit" to the House.