Friday, September 19, 2008
Rep. Gene Green (D-Tex.), the acting chairman of the House ethics committee, said yesterday that he will recommend launching a probe of Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.), who has asked the panel to examine questions about his financial filings and other matters.
Rep. Doc Hastings (Wash.), the ranking Republican, said the investigation should have begun in July and should include a special counsel to help lawmakers understand the issues. "This has been delayed for far too long," Hastings said in a statement.
Meanwhile, a potential new ethics problem for Rangel is sitting in the garage at the Rayburn House Office Building.
That's where the Ways and Means Committee chairman has kept his 1972 silver Mercedes-Benz since 2003, even after the car stopped working and was no longer registered, said George Dalley, his chief of staff.
House rules prohibit the long-term storage of vehicles in the garage.
Rangel began parking there after he and his wife sold their home on Colorado Avenue NW, Dalley said. After a while, the car wouldn't start. A staffer typically drives Rangel to and from his son's home in Clinton, Md., where he stays while in Washington.
"It was always a question of, 'We need to deal with this,' " Dalley said. "There was always a mixture of inconvenience and procrastination more than there was a feeling of hurry because we were violating the storage rules."
Rangel was not notified that he was in violation, Dalley said. The New York Post first reported the problem yesterday. Now Rangel wants to repair the car and register it in New York, Dalley said.
The staffer said he is also trying to calculate the value of Rangel's use of the parking space over the years, which all lawmakers must declare to the Internal Revenue Service as imputed income.
Rangel, 78, has already requested that the House ethics committee look into inaccuracies in his financial filings and tax returns, his rental of several New York apartments at below-market rates, and his fundraising for an academic center named for him.
He has resisted demands that he temporarily relinquish his chairmanship. Yesterday, Democrats blocked a resolution from House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) that would force the ethics panel to begin investigating within 10 days and remove Rangel as Ways and Means chairman until the work is done.
-- Christopher Lee and Ben Pershing