WASHINGTON – The powerful House Democrat Rep. Charles Rangel is facing new ethical questions in a report that says he used his congressional office to solicit $30 million in donations to an academic center bearing his name.
The Washington Post reported Tuesday that Rangel has sought money from companies that have business before the committee he chairs -- the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee -- and has used his congressional stationary and other amenities available to him as a congressman to do so.
Rangel already has secured federal funds for the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at the City College of New York, including a $1.9 million earmark last year, and $690,500 from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Post writes.
Those who have received fundraising requests from Rangel include the likes of Donald Trump, former insurance magnate AIG chief Maurice "Hank" Greenburg, and AIG officials. Meanwhile, AIG is spending millions lobbying Congress to extend a lucrative tax break, the Post reported.
The Post writes that Rangel has already helped raised about $12 million for the academic center, which includes a library that will house an archive of his official papers.
Ethics observers say the report raises questions because companies might feel coerced into giving money to Rangel because of his position, and it's tempting for a public official to funnel taxpayer money to a facility with his name on it rather than something that might be more worthy.
Rangel told the Post: "In the 38 years that I've been down here (in Washington), I don't think there has ever been any challenge real or unreal, to my integrity as it relates to fundraising. ... If it was an ethical problem, I wouldn't do it."
The Washington Post's report follows less than a week after another article in The New York Times that said Rangel, who lives in Harlem, rents four apartments at reduced prices in a prestigious apartment building.
The Times reported that Rangel uses one apartment as a campaign office, apparently breaking city rules that require rent-controlled apartments to be used as a primary residence.
A Rangel spokesman said Monday that the congressman is going to give up the apartment being used for his campaign office.