- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 1, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Charlie Rangel is one lucky guy. The Democratic congressman from Harlem, N.Y., just discovered that his net wealth is twice what he thought. That’s a pretty good day at the office for a public servant.

Mr. Rangel also realized that he made tens of thousands of dollars more than he reported in many different years over the past decade. This is the most recent string in a series of financial bonanzas for Mr. Rangel, who last year admitted he had forgotten about $75,000 in rental income on his Caribbean resort property.

Mr. Rangel amended his 2007 financial disclosure form in August, explaining that he had overlooked between $500,000 and $780,000 in assets. It must be nice to be so wealthy that one forgets possessing more than $250,000 in a checking account at the Federal Credit Union. He also forgot his sizable investment accounts at J.P. Morgan, Merrill Lynch & Co., Oppenheimer and BlackRock. For good measure, throw in what might have been up to $50,000 in PepsiCo stock, but who is keeping track at this point? (Hint: not Charlie.)

That’s not all. The congressman has failed to pay property taxes on two lots in New Jersey, according to the New York Post. In order to avoid taxes and get lower mortgage interest rates, Mr. Rangel simultaneously claimed three “primary residences.”

Mr. Rangel already faces congressional investigations for three types of financial misbehavior. In addition to the Caribbean property, he is accused of using four rent-stabilized apartments for which he didn’t qualify because his income is too high. He also purportedly used official congressional letterhead to solicit donations for the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at City College of New York.

There’s a big problem here even if these lapses were all honest mistakes. Mr. Rangel is chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee. His cavalier attitude toward his own tax obligations reminds how out of touch Washington’s political class can be. At the very least, politicians like Mr. Rangel don’t think the laws they foist on us apply to themselves.

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