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Rangel: Ethics talks unrelated to personal finance issues

By Paul Kane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 30, 2009 11:37 AM

House ethics committee investigators have interviewed Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.), the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee whose personal finances have been under investigation for more than a year, a committee document from July reveals.

Committee staff met with Rangel in late July. In an interview with The Washington Post, the lawmaker said the meeting concerned only a recent trip to the Caribbean island of St. Maarten that he and four members of the Congressional Black Caucus took last November.

Rangel said he has not been interviewed by the committee to discuss other elements of the investigation, which involve his personal finances and whether House resources were improperly used to raise funds for a college center named for him.

However, committee staff members have taken a trip to the New York city housing offices, according to the ethics committee document. One of the allegations against Rangel is that he was breaking the city's rent control rules by occupying multiple units in a rent-controlled building in Harlem. One unit may have inappropriately served as a political office for the congressman, according to the allegations.

Rangel has denied any wrongdoing and requested the investigation himself after a series of media reports in 2008 also revealed the lawmaker had not paid taxes on a villa in the Caribbean and used his congressional office to raise millions of dollars for the research center at City College of New York. The center was named in his honor and was funded partly through donations from corporations with potential business before his committee.

The investigation has expanded into several other areas of his finances, including his decision to amend financial disclosure forms earlier this year revealing accounts that held more than $500,000 in them that had not been previously disclosed.

The committee also has interviewed Rangel's top aide, James Capel, who in July belatedly filed several years' worth of financial disclosure. The most senior aides must file the same disclosure reports just as lawmakers do every spring.

The committee also has interviewed Steven Rangel, the lawmaker's son. The document does not make clear what the interview covered. News reports last year said that his father's campaign committee paid nearly $60,000 to an Internet consulting firm owned by Steven Rangel. He now works as an aide to the House oversight committee.

Republicans have asked for the congressman to step down as chairman of the powerful committee while the investigation is ongoing and forced votes on resolutions to strip him of the gavel. Those efforts have failed largely on party-line votes.

Rangel declined to detail what he told the committee in his interview. "I have gathered that the best way to deal with this is to talk as little as possible -- except with the lawyer," he said.

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