WASHINGTON – House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel openly challenged The Washington Post and other news media exploring his relationship between an academic center bearing his name and efforts the congressman took to fundraise for the center.
Rangel sought to show that recent reports of his living situation — renting four Harlem apartments at below-market rates — are overblown. He invited an ethics committee investigation into his fundraising efforts, and said if no one would file a complaint to begin a probe, he would attempt to do so himself.
The Post published a piece this week raising questions about Rangel's use of his congressional stationary and other perks available to congressmen to raise money for the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at the City College of New York, an academic center that will include an archive of Rangel's official papers and memorabilia.
"So if at a time that we're at war, we need education, health care, unemployment, a fiscal crisis, the opening up of our treasury and increase in billions of dollars in debt, if The Washington Post believes that this warrants front page and editorials, then I feel it's my obligation to push this to the very limit so that members whose elections may be adversely affected by unfounded rumors created by the press, that they would have a clear idea as to what the ground rules are," Rangel said.
He also said: "I'm going to see how much damn ink The Washington Post has," challenging a political dogma that one should never fight someone who buys ink by the barrel.
Focusing on a set of letters examined by the Post, Rangel said the paper leapt to the conclusion that he used the letters for explicit fundraising from high-ranking corporate officials; Rangel said he never asked them for money in the letters. He did not dispute meeting with the officials, and said he believes his actions are allowed under House ethics rules.
Rangel defended his seeking of some $2 million in earmarks for the academic center, saying that he has done so openly. He criticized those who secretly seek earmarks.
With respect to the apartments — first reported last week by The New York Times — Rangel dismissed the question over whether the difference in cost between market rates and the price he pays is a gift.
He said the market value of his three apartments can't be determined because they are unique, and he said that even if a price were determined he has no one to pay.
"Give it to the landlord? Forget about it," Rangel said.
Rangel is vacating a fourth apartment in the building that he used for his campaign office. That apparently violated city rules that requires rent-controlled apartments to be a place of residence.