Ethics Committee Launches Panel to Investigate Rangel

The House ethics committee said Wednesday it was establishing an investigative panel to determine whether Rep. Charles Rangel, the influential chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, had broken House rules as a result of several reported lapses in his personal affairs.

Rangel, D-N.Y., has urged the ethics committee to look into questions surrounding his finances while rejecting Republican demands that he step down as head of the tax-writing committee.

House Republican leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, welcomed the investigation and renewed his call for Rangel to vacate his chairmanship. "During this time of economic crisis, it is not in our nation's best interest to have the chairman of the House's powerful tax-writing committee under investigation for unethical conduct related to his failure to comply with tax laws."

Rangel, 78, last week wrote six checks for back taxes totaling $10,800 while stressing in a letter to New Yorkers that he had done nothing dishonorable and was the target of a GOP "guerrilla war."

Rangel has been hit by a series of embarrassing revelations — that he didn't pay taxes on rental income for a beach house in the Dominican Republic; that he used three rent-stabilized apartments in Harlem, including one for a campaign office; and that he used his congressional stationery to seek private donations to a college center named after him.

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Heading the four-man investigative subcommittee will be acting ethics committee chairman Rep. Gene Green, D-Texas, and the top Republican on the ethics committee, Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash.