By Christopher Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.) says he will hire a forensic accountant to untangle his confusing and error-prone financial records and eventually will make public his tax returns and the accountant's report.
The announcement yesterday came as Rangel faced new questions about his annual financial disclosure filings, prompting a meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to discuss his ethics troubles. Enveloped by three separate ethics inquiries, Rangel is under increasing pressure to step down as chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee until the investigation is complete.
Rangel said the accountant will turn over findings to the House Ethics Committee, which is conducting the probe. And he promised to make public tax returns for the last 20 years after the ethics panel has determined whether he violated any rules.
Rangel said in a statement that he erred in delegating responsibility to staff. "I owed my colleagues and the public adherence to a higher standard of care not only as a member of Congress but, even more, as the chair of the House Ways & Means Committee," he said.
Pelosi said after meeting with Rangel yesterday that he was not asked to temporarily step aside and he did not volunteer to do so. Emerging from Pelosi's suite, Rangel declined to respond to inquiries.
Rangel, 78, acknowledged last week that he failed to disclose and pay taxes on at least $75,000 in rental income from a Dominican Republic villa that he has owned for 20 years -- a home financed, in part, with a no-interest loan from the developer. Rangel said he would amend his returns and pay back taxes of more than $10,000.
The ethics panel is investigating the villa deal. It also is examining Rangel's rental of several New York apartments at below-market rates and his fundraising entreaties on congressional stationery on behalf of an academic center bearing his name.
More questions about Rangel's financial filings arose over the weekend.
The congressman's disclosure forms and Florida real estate records indicate that Rangel underreported the value of a condominium he and his wife owned near Miami and that he failed to fully disclose his privately sponsored trips as a member of Congress.
Alma Rangel bought the condominium in Sunny Isles Beach, Fla., for $335,000 in 2004 and sold it two years later for $405,000, records show.
On disclosure forms, Rep. Rangel valued the unit at between $50,001 and $100,000 in 2004. The next year, he valued it at between $100,001 and $250,000.
In 2006, Rangel disclosed the condo sale and listed its value accurately. But he later recorded the transaction as occurring in 2007, with a value between $100,001 and $250,000.
Adding to the confusion, Rangel indicated that the condo was a rental property but had generated no rental income.
George Dalley, Rangel's chief of staff, said in an interview that Alma Rangel bought the condo as a possible retirement home with money from the 2003 sale of their longtime Washington residence. The Florida property got little use, Rep. Rangel knew few details about it and the couple sold it two years later, Dalley said.
"He had no idea of the price of the property and obviously showed his unfamiliarity with the price of Florida real estate" in his disclosure forms, Dalley said in an e-mail.
Dalley, who oversaw completion of Rangel's forms, took responsibility for the reporting errors. He said the congressman will file amendments to his disclosure forms.
The records also show that Rangel failed to fully account for many of his privately sponsored trips to destinations such as Taiwan, Singapore and the Caribbean islands. Of 20 trips listed on his annual disclosure forms, he reported seven on the separate travel disclosure forms members must file to provide a more detailed accounting of the cost and purpose of the trips.
In an e-mail, Dalley said that "there may have been staff error in failing to advise the congressman of the dual reporting requirement."
Staff writer Paul Kane and staff researcher Eddy Palanzo contributed to this report.