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Charlie Rangel forgets to disclose $600,000 in income. Should he give up the Ways and Means gavel?

September 2, 2009 |  9:47 am

 Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charlie Rangel

He has the most powerful perch in Congress as head of the House Ways and Means Committee.

He is connected -- one of the original Friends of Bill (Clinton), an avid supporter of Hillary Rodham Clinton.

But New York Democrat Charlie Rangel is under increasing pressure to step down as chairman in the wake of an ethics investigation over his failure to report $600,000 in assets in his Senate financial disclosure form. In recent “amendments” to his reports, Rangel acknowledged that he omitted just a few assets -- such as a Merrill Lynch Global account worth at least $250,000, holdings in PepsiCo and Yum! Brands stocks,  a vacation property in the Dominican Republic and, oh yeah, up to $100,000 in rent from a Harlem brownstone that he sold in 2004 for more than $1 million.

As the Wall Street Journal put it in an editorial, “When normal people happen to 'find' their own money, it might mean a twenty left in a winter coat, or discovering change beneath the sofa cushions. But if you're Charlie Rangel, it means doubling your net worth.”

Republicans, led by California’s Darrell Issa, are urging House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) to topple Rangel from the chairman's seat and calling on Rangel to release his income taxes. “He’s got to resolve the difference on whether these are reporting errors on a financial disclosure form or whether he’s been filing false returns with the IRS,” Issa said.

In September, when it was disclosed that Rangel failed to pay taxes on a Dominican Republic resort condo, the gravelly-voiced, 79-year-old Harlem congressman said, “I really don’t believe making mistakes means you have to give up your career.

Pelosi has told aides that she has no intention of stripping Rangel of his gavel, explaining that she wants the Ethics Committee to investigate Rangel’s lapses without any meddling from Democratic leaders.

“Charlie Rangel is a very distinguished member of the House of Representatives,” Pelosi said this week. “Whatever the leaders on their side say, he is very well-respected by members on both sides of the aisle.”

Maybe, but good government types are not swayed. “If you come in on a platform of cleaning up corruption, you can’t excuse members of your own caucus,” said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics.

Referring to the just-convicted Louisiana Democrat William Jefferson, the one who stuffed $90,000 in his freezer wrapped in tin foil, Jazz Shaw wrote, "There's really nothing missing from this story except a few piddling questions about why Charlie couldn't afford a bigger freezer and couldn't somebody have loaned the guy a couple of rolls of aluminum foil?"

-- Johanna Neuman

Photo: Getty Images

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