Rangel's wrangle: The House tax chairman should quit his post
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In seeking to take over Congress two years ago, Democrats campaigned with justification against the culture of corruption that Republicans had brought to Capitol Hill. But one party never had a monopoly on virtue (or vice) and in recent days Democratic Rep. Charles B. Rangel of New York has provided a stunning reminder.
Mr. Rangel is head of the House Ways and Means Committee, the panel that writes tax legislation. And what has Mr. Rangel been up to? Over 20 years, he failed to report some $75,000 in income from a beach rental property he owns in the Dominican Republic. Now that's chutzpah!
The amount he owes the Internal Revenue Service is estimated to be at least $5,000. His total tax bill might be as much as $10,000 when figuring in state and local charges. This is not a king's ransom, but the affront is more than the dollars. As Ways and Means chairman, he should have known better and he has admitted that the omission was "irresponsible."
At a press conference in Washington, D.C., his excuse was risible. He blamed language and cultural barriers in the Dominican Republican for his confusion. But as The New York Times noted, Spanish is a common tongue in his Harlem district -- even his Web site can be read in Spanish with clicks of a mouse.
Mr. Rangel said he had asked the House ethics committee to look into the matter. It will also examine the issues raised by four rent-stabilized apartments he uses in the district, as well as a series of letters written to seek support of a New York education center named for him.
Whatever the committee decides, Mr. Rangel needs to take a further step to restore public confidence in this important committee. He should hand over the chairmanship to someone else. It is ridiculous and insulting that the committee overseeing taxes should be led by someone who did not pay his fair share of them -- for whatever reason.
First Published September 13, 2008 12:00 am