Monday, Nov. 03, 2008

$1.9 million for the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service

It's been dubbed the "Monument to Me" — a planned $30 million academic center supported by longtime New York Rep. Charles Rangel and named, not so surprisingly, for Rep. Charles Rangel. The Harlem Democrat raised hackles after securing a $1.9 million earmark for the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at the City College of New York. When a more junior colleague objected to the idea of lawmakers sponsoring things bearing their own names, the 78-year-old Congressman responded "I would have a problem if you did it, because I don't think that you've been around long enough...." Rangel ruffled more feathers by reportedly soliciting donations for the center from companies with business before the powerful Ways and Means Committee — which he chairs. He also stands accused of working to preserve a tax shelter for an oil drilling company whose chief executive pledged $1 million to the center; Rangel says his support for the legislation had nothing to do with the company or its executive's pledge. It hasn't helped Rangel's case that he's been caught up in a number of ethical and legal tangles in recent months, including his failure to report $75,000 in rental income from a villa in the Dominican Republican, alleged violations of New York regulations on rent-stabilized apartments, and reports of inappropriately taking a tax break on a home in Washington, D.C. Rangel has acknowledged some oversights but insisted he's "done nothing morally wrong," and welcomed a House ethics investigation that's expected to wrap up early in 2009. But it seems his patience for scrutiny into the subject has a limit: pressed by a reporter on his fundraising tactics for the academic center, Rangel responded, "I really think you're being annoying now."