- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 8, 2009

The House panel investigating alleged ethics violations by Rep. Charles B. Rangel, New York Democrat, said Thursday it voted unanimously to expand the probe.

A statement by the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct said its investigative subcommittee already has issued nearly “150 subpoenas, interviewed approximately 34 witnesses resulting in over 2,100 pages of transcripts.”

The subcommittee also has analyzed more than 12,000 pages of documents and held more than 30 investigative meetings, according to the statement issued by Rep. Zoe Lofgren, California Democrat, who is the committee chairman, and ranking minority member Rep. Jo Bonner, Alabama Republican.

However, the committee said confidentiality rules restrict members from saying how or why the investigation is expanding.

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The statement follows a failed attempt Wednesday by House Republicans to remove Mr. Rangel from his post as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.

Rep. John Carter, Texas Republican and secretary of the House Republican Conference, presented a resolution for a full House vote calling for the removal of Mr. Rangel, at least until the committee concludes its probe. However, the Democrat-controlled chamber sidestepped the issue by instead referring the resolution to the ethics panel.

The committee has been investigating Mr. Rangel for 16 months on an expanding number of allegations, including tax evasion and failure to report income and assets.

Among the allegations are that Mr. Rangel failed to report income from rental property in the Dominican Republic, that he was living in a rent-controlled New York apartment and that he had at least $250,000 in a checking account. Another allegation is that Mr. Rangel used official congressional letterhead to solicit donations for the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at the City College of New York.

Republicans say the 16-month review has dragged on without resolution and that Democrats continue to shield Mr. Rangel despite the congressman’s own acknowledgment — in revised disclosure statements last month — that his net worth was roughly $500,000 more, or nearly double what he previously reported.

The Ways and Means Committee is the House’s chief tax-writing panel and also oversees the Internal Revenue Service.

House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, on Thursday called on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, to force Mr. Rangel to step down as chairman.

“Given the expanded investigation announced today, it is past time for Speaker Pelosi to insist that Chairman Rangel step aside until the ethics committee completes its work,” Mr. Boehner said. “The American people wont stand for having a chairman of the Houses tax-writing committee who is under investigation for not paying his taxes. What more has to happen before Speaker Pelosi does the right thing?”

“As a practical matter, today’s announcement is nothing new,” Rangel spokesman Robin Peguero said. “Today’s action by the committee is a technicality, as everything they referenced in today’s announcement has already been subject to ongoing review by the ethics committee and its staff. It is clear that the committee is being very thorough and deliberative in their process, hence today’s announcement.”

Mrs. Pelosi’s office said Thursday afternoon that the speaker would comment later.

The vote Wednesday was 246-153, with two Democrats siding with the minority and 19 members voting “present.”

Mr. Rangel, who entered Congress in 1971, was among those who voted in favor of referring the resolution to the committee.

“That’s where it belongs,” he said. “It doesn’t belong on the floor.”

Reps. Gene Taylor and Travis W. Childers, both from Mississippi, were the two Democrats who voted against Mr. Rangel on Wednesday. A Republican aide said the vote showed that support for Mr. Rangel was weakening.

“These votes show that support for the Democratic leaders’ decision to sweep this matter under the rug is starting to crack,” said Michael Steel, spokesman for Mr. Boehner.

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