Friday, January 02, 2009

Yet More Rangel Pay to Play?

photo via the NY PostIs that a whiff of smoke I see?
Mr. Rangel had already helped secure a $5 million pledge for the project from a foundation controlled by Maurice R. Greenberg, one of the company’s largest shareholders and its former chief executive. And C.C.N.Y. officials, according to the school’s own records, had high hopes for A.I.G. — a donation of perhaps as much as $10 million.

The company has never made a contribution. But less than a month after Mr. Rangel met with its officials, the company turned to the congressman for help: A senior A.I.G. executive who had attended the fund-raising meeting wrote a letter directly to Mr. Rangel, chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, urging him to support a provision of a tax bill that would save A.I.G. millions of dollars a year, according to Joseph M. Norton, a company spokesman.

Mr. Rangel’s exchange with A.I.G. last spring appears to be at odds with the public statements he has made since his fund-raising for the school became an issue. When his approach to A.I.G. was first reported in The Washington Post in July, Mr. Rangel said that he could not recall any issues his committee might have considered in which A.I.G. had an interest.

“I can’t think of one piece of legislation that impacts them, and there has never been a time that they’ve raised any legislation to me,” the paper quoted Mr. Rangel as saying. Indeed, in Mr. Rangel’s formal submission to the House ethics committee, asking it to review his use of Congressional stationery in soliciting money for the school, he wrote, “So far as I am aware, none of those whom I wrote had any pending requests into my office, lobbied me regarding any legislation before my committee, or asked me for assistance on legislation in which they had a special interest.”

Mr. Rangel, who had opposed the tax change A.I.G. was seeking — part of a much bigger piece of legislation — ultimately allowed it to be added to a bill he sponsored. Mr. Rangel’s aides, and fellow Democrats on the Ways and Means Committee, say that he agreed to the bill only after being persuaded by other members of Congress that it would help an array of American companies weather the economic uncertainty.
Rep. Charles Rangel keeps finding himself in this situation. He asks AIG for a donation early in 2008 for the school of public service being developed by the City College of New York. AIG turns around and gets a tax break, courtesy of Rangel's Ways and Means Committee.

AIG had a whole host of issues before Ways and Means. They weren't merely some company with a one-off issue. AIG lobbyists have been hard at work on the Hill, including during the $700 billion bailout, which also passed through Rangel's hands.

Throw in the fact that Rangel's engaged in rampant tax evasion, ignored House ethics rules and guidelines for tax consequences and reporting of junkets, and a whole litany of other questionable practices, and you have to wonder why Democrats continue to back the guy. He's a walking rap sheet in waiting.

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