The priveleges of being Charlie Rangel
Representative Charles B. Rangel has helped raise $11 million for a City College of New York school of public service to be named in his honor. In recent months, as questions have emerged about his fund-raising, he has insisted that he has kept his efforts to attract donors scrupulously separate from his official duties in Congress.I think Charlie Rangel is a likable rogue. While I haven't spent anytime in a Green Room waiting to be interviewed, I think of all the Democrat leaders Rangel would be the most entertaining to spend that time with. But I think that Charlie has gotten too used to the perks and priveleges of being Charlie Rangel.
But Congressional records and interviews show that Mr. Rangel was instrumental in preserving a lucrative tax loophole that benefited an oil-drilling company last year, while at the same time its chief executive was pledging $1 million to the project, the Charles B. Rangel School of Public Service at C.C.N.Y.
The company, Nabors Industries, was one of four corporations based in the United States that were widely criticized in 2002 and 2003 for opening offices in the Caribbean to reduce their federal tax payments. Mr. Rangel was among dozens of representatives from both parties who bitterly opposed those offshore moves and, in 2004, pushed unsuccessfully for legislation to make the companies pay more tax.
But in 2007, when the United States Senate tried to crack down on the companies, Mr. Rangel, who had recently been sworn in as House Ways and Means chairman, fought to protect them. The tax shelter for the four companies was preserved, saving Nabors an estimated tens of millions of dollars annually and depriving the federal treasury of $1.1 billion in revenues over a decade, according to a Congressional analysis by the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation.
Mr. Rangel said he stood with Nabors because, as much as he was offended by the company’s attempts to get around some of its United States taxes, he thought it wrong to impose a retroactive tax increase. The congressman said he has long believed that retroactive punishments are bad public policy.
Mr. Rangel also said that the pledge from the Nabors chief executive, Eugene M. Isenberg, one of the largest the school received, played no role in his decision to protect the loophole, and maintained that he did not even know about it until this summer, more than a year later. His aides said he also later pushed tax legislation that would have adversely affected Nabors and hundreds of other offshore companies, though those efforts came to naught.
Mr. Isenberg said that he pledged the money — $200,000 of which he has already paid — because the school is a worthy cause, and that he never sought or received special treatment from Mr. Rangel.
“There was no quid pro quo,” Mr. Isenberg said in an interview on Friday.
What is clear is that Mr. Rangel played a pivotal role in preserving the tax shelter for Nabors and the other companies in 2007. And while the issue was before his committee, Mr. Rangel met with Mr. Isenberg and a lobbyist for Nabors and discussed it, on the same morning that the congressman and Mr. Isenberg met to talk about the chief executive’s potential support for the Rangel center.
Everyone likes him so much they are always giving him good deals on apartments and houses and donations to his causes. And it appears Charlie has lost track of what does not look good on the front page of the NY Times. He has had several opportunities lately to experience the downside of coverage by the Times.
It may be time for him to retire and enjoy his beach front property. Perhaps he can invite his buddy Bill Clinton down since Hillary's new job may take some of the fun out of his travels.