The list of excuses offered by Rep. Charles Rangel for failing to pay taxes on at least $75,000 in rental income from his luxury beachfront villa in the Caribbean grows longer. Now the Associated Press takes the Harlem Democrat, who is chairman of the powerful tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, to task for inaccuracies in his personal financial disclosures to Congress.
There's nothing new that's overly juicy—although the sloppy form-filling only reinforces the perception that Rangel is a financial scofflaw. But his excuse is priceless: "While over the years I delegated to my staff the completion of my annual House financial disclosure statements, I had the ultimate responsibility."
This kind of linguistic deviance, in which one seemingly takes responsibility while in fact deflecting blame elsewhere, is fast becoming an art form with Rangel. It's probably best summed up by two lines from a news conference he held last Wednesday to deflate the issue: "I sincerely regret and take personal responsibility for these errors," he said. And then, "I personally feel that I have done nothing morally wrong."
For those keeping track, here's a short list of excuses offered by Rangel and his superlawyer, Lanny Davis, in which they blame the top tax-writer's ignorance of Tax 101; Rangel's wife; the resort's management; and the people of the Dominican Republic:
- "Mr. Davis said the congressman did not realize he had to declare the money as income, and was unaware of the semiannual payments from the resort because his wife, Alma, handled the family finances and conferred with their accountant, John Viardi, on tax matters." (New York Times, September 5)
- "While I now know is [sic] although I had not personally received proceeds in cash, the fact that [sic] any reduction of the mortgage actually counted as income and should have been reported as such." (Rangel news conference, September 10)
- "The company's failure to provide timely and regular statement [sic] does not excuse any failure to be more diligently pursued [sic] the actual terms of the arrangement and respond appropriately." (Rangel news conference, September 10)
- "But I want to thank my friend and lawyer Lanny Davis for putting together a team that has been able to do what I have not been able to do in 20 years, and that is to break through the cultural and language barrier in getting the owners to share with me the method in which this mortgage would be reduced and ultimately eliminated." (Rangel news conference, September 10)
- "Every time I thought I was getting through, they started talking Spanish." (Rangel news conference, September 10)
- "While over the years I delegated to my staff the completion of my annual House financial disclosure statements, I had the ultimate responsibility." (AP, September 15)