Rangel Still Spending Big on Legal Help

By John Bresnahan
|  Friday, Oct 16, 2009  |  Updated 6:45 AM EDT
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Rangel Still Spending Big on Legal Help

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Embattled Democratic Rep. Charlie Rangel (N.Y.), the focus of a year-long investigation by the House ethics committee, continues to spend heavily on legal help, shelling out more than a quarter of a million dollars this summer.

Rangel’s latest report with the Federal Election Commission shows the New York Democrat paid $254,886 to three law firms during the July 1-Sept. 30 period, with $236,159 of that total going to the firm Zuckerman Spaeder on July 6.

During the last quarter, Rangel raised more than $807,000, according to his FEC report.

But $371,000 of that total was transferred to his campaign from the Rangel Victory Fund, a joint fundraising committee that Rangel created last year, and which recently hosted a fundraiser at New York’s famous Tavern on the Green with entertainment by legendary crooner Tony Bennett.

Rangel’s prowess as a fundraiser has been damaged by the current scandal, which in turn has made him less of a money conduit for fellow Democrats.

The ethics probe has also cost Rangel heavily. He has paid out well over $1 million to his legal team from his campaign account, though he still has more than $1.1 million in the bank. Lawmakers are allowed to use campaign funds to pay legal bills for investigations tied to official actions.

As of Sept. 30, Rangel’s re-election committee had raised $1.5 million since the start of this year.

At this point in the previous election cycle, Rangel for Congress had raked in $2.7 million, and had $1.6 million in cash on hand.

While during the same period two years ago, Rangel doled out $38,000 to Democratic challengers and incumbents, Rangel handed out only $2,000 this summer, with that going to fellow Democratic Reps. Eric Massa (N.Y.) and Dina Titus (Nev.). In addition, Rangel donated $15,500 to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, the non-profit arm of African-American lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Rangel is one of the CBC's most senior members.

Rangel, chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, has found his personal finances the subject of a widening ethics investigation. The House ethics committee voted last week to expand the probe to include amended financial disclosure reports he filed in August, showing more than $600,000 in income and assets that had never previously been disclosed.

The ethics committee was already looking into Rangel’s use of multiple rent-stabilized apartments, his fundraising on behalf of the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at City College in New York, and his failure to pay taxes on a Dominican Republic vacation home.

Rangel is also being investigated in a separate ethics committee probe of Caribbean trips in 2007-08 by five members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

The veteran New York Democrat has denied any wrongdoing, and Democratic leaders have stuck with him so far, although Republicans and leading newspapers have repeatedly called for his removal as Ways and Means chairman.

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