This morning's papers delivered two good thumpings to Charlie Rangel, the good-time jolly-wolly Democrat who likes to crack wise from the chairman's seat on the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee.
First there is the Washington Post's revelation that Rangel inappropriately claimed a tax break on his D.C. townhouse by claiming it was his primary residence. The five-year charade only netted the congressman from Harlem about $1,500, which is relatively small potatoes. But it nicely dovetails with two other Rangel escapades of late: That he failed to pay taxes on $75,000 in rental income from his luxury beach villa in the Caribbean because he—ahem—didn't know it was income; and that he scored several rent-stabilized apartments in New York, each of which he must claim as his primary residence. Taken all together, it looks like the top tax-writer in Congress is a tax cheat.
But don't think Rangel is selfish. As the New York Times reports today, Rangel was happy to turn tricks for others. After years of going after U.S. corporations for the perfectly legal practice of offshoring, in 2007 Rangel abruptly changed course, killing a bill that would have subjected these corporations to U.S. taxes.
Among those who benefited was Eugene Isenberg, chairman of Nabors Industries, an oil-drilling company that was the poster-child for offshoring in 2002. At the time Rangel killed the bill, Mr. Isenberg pledged $1 million to the "Charles B. Rangel School of Public Service" at the City College of New York. (The House Ethics Committee already is looking into whether Rangel inappropriately solicited donations to his vanity shrine.)
As the Times reports, Rangel "said that the pledge from the Nabors chief executive, Eugene M. Isenberg, one of the largest the school received, played no role in his decision to protect the loophole, and maintained that he did not even know about it until this summer, more than a year later." Well of course Rangel says that.
Alas, "Mr. Rangel met with Mr. Isenberg and a lobbyist for Nabors and discussed [the legislation] on the same morning that the congressman and Mr. Isenberg met to talk about the chief executive's potential support for the Rangel center." Oh, that meeting also took place on the very day that the offshore-taxation issue came up before his committee.
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