Rep. Charles Rangel asked the House Ethics Committee on Thursday to investigate his fundraising for a college research center named after him, saying a probe would prove he did nothing wrong.
But Rangel said any inquiry shouldn't include another issue that has drawn scrutiny: His four rent-stabilized Harlem apartments, one used as a campaign office despite rules requiring such discounted apartments to be a tenant's primary residence.
Rangel, the House Ways and Means Committee chairman and one of New York's most influential politicians, is bristling at recent media scrutiny of his living arrangements and efforts to raise money for the City College of New York's Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service.
The Washington Post reported Tuesday that the Harlem Democrat had written letters on congressional stationery and sought meetings with business leaders _ some with interests before his committee _ to help raise corporate and foundation contributions for the center.
House ethics rules bar members from using congressional letterhead and resources to solicit money for charities. House Republican leader John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, and the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington have pressed the House Ethics Committee to look into Rangel's fundraising for the City College center.
At a Washington news conference Thursday, Rangel said an investigation would vindicate him. He said the letters weren't bids for money _ just requests for the recipients to "learn more about the program."
"I wouldn't have done it if I thought the rules were unclear," said Rangel, who also has said he didn't discuss congressional business with potential donors. "But to make certain that even reporters can understand it, I want to go back to the Ethics Committee and make it even more clear."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday she backed his request for an ethics probe.
Some critics have claimed Rangel's below-market-rate apartments also cross an ethical line, amounting to a gift from his landlord. But the congressman said he did not plan to ask the ethics panel to explore that question.
"I don't think that's an issue," he said. "Where I live and how I live, if it's legal, I think it's a personal issue."
Rangel lives in three adjacent apartments at the Lenox Terrace complex. He said this week he would move his campaign office out of a fourth rent-stabilized apartment in the same building.
Rangel's namesake center at City College aims to encourage poor and minority students to pursue careers in public service. The 38-year congressman secured $1.9 million in federal money last year to help start the center, prompting some Republican skeptics to call it Rangel's "Monument to Me."
The center has raised about $12 million toward a $30 million goal.