TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Rangel Disputes NY Times' Charge That He Provided Retroactive Tax Break to Corporation Whose CEO Donated $1m to His Charity

Last month, the New York Times published The Congressman, the Donor and the Tax Break, by David Kocieniewski, which chronicled House Ways & Means Chair Charlie Rangel's role in preserving a tax loophole for a corporation at the same time its chief executive officer was pledging $1 million to the congressman’s favored charity.

The New York Times yesterday published a detailed response by Rep. Rangel, as well a point-by-point response by the reporter.

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Rangel Pushed Grad School; Insurer Pushed a Tax Cut, NYT 1-3-09

Rangel and AIG Tax Cut: A semicolon in the headline does not a connection make.

The real agenda of your last two front-pages articles re the Chairman of Ways and Means, Charles Rangel, D (NY) is becoming increasingly clear--i.e., to influence the deliberating jury—the House Ethics Committee. Interspersed between David Kocieniewski’s most recent articles was your telltale editorial-"Ms. Pelosi MUST ...urge or demand that Mr. Rangel give up his chairmanship ...while the investigation proceeds."
How does telling key players what they MUST do add to the dialogue on this important issue?

Fairness suggests judgments should come AFTER the jury reports out. By contrast, another major newspaper entitled its editorial: "PRESUMPTION OF INNOCENCE FOR RANGEL"

In the most recent front-page article (by way of contrast, the coverage of the Governors’ requests for the economic recovery package of potenially $800 billion, was relegated to a side column a dozen pages later) you seem to substitute length of verbiage for accuracy and fail to establish a real nexus between various actions. Your sub-headline (“The Ways and Means chairman sought a donation from an insurance giant”) didn’t even mention that it was for the highly respected public institution—the City College of New York. More thorough research might have documented that that federal laws expressly permit Members of Congress to engage in fundraising activity on behalf of non-profits such as CCNY. It would appear that there is neither anything illegal nor improper about the donations solicited or the alleged nefarious connection--to the policy issues that regularly come before Chairman Rangel–regardless of your attempts to tarnish him with a broad target-seeking brush.

While AIG lobbyists appear to have successfully convinced the Bush Administration re TARP bailout funds for AIG—it is the charitable Starr Foundation headed by the former AIG Chairman, Hank Greenberg, which indeed made a significant commitment to CCNY--that by implication you go after in terms of “guilt by association” for his role over two years ago yet.” Yesterday’s piece comes off as an attempt to skew the evidence. It was the BUSH Administration which determined that $150 billion of the bi-partisan approved TARP funds should be used to assist AIG. That certainly did not involve Chairman Rangel. Other observers have noted that the NYT editorials at the time supported the decision that AIG receive such funds as did the presidential candidates of both major political parties. What knowledgeable person would believe that this was done to support the former AIG chairman? Did the NYT Foundation return the contribution from the same Starr Foundation based on the potential conflict of interest regarding the ongoing articles and editorials attempting to discredit Mr. Rangel?

While you note Chairman Frank and Congressman Crowley’s statements on the matter, you appear to give them no credence. Are your reporters attacking their veracity as well? The statements that backed Mr. Rangel’s position in the last two paragraphs of the article almost seem to be an afterthought?

While the author of the earlier Times article went into detailed minutiae in a response approximately TWICE as long as the Chairman's letter to the NYT editor I could find absolutely NO response to or refutation of the following statement posted on the internet by the Chairman: "...Moreover, your editorial board is now criticizing me for opposing a 2007 Senate bill that the New York Times itself strenuously opposed. In fact, the Times roundly praised my efforts to defeat that very same bill by working on separate, targeted, bipartisan legislation in the House." Charles B. Rangel, 11-26-08.

It is simply wrong to try and hound Mr. Rangel from the Chairmanship prior to the report of the Congressional Ethics Committee charged with investigating the matters in question. Common decency suggests that you wait a few weeks until there is disposition of the ethics charges under investigation by a bipartisan congressional committee before excoriating Mr. Rangel once again.

Unsurprised, yet disappointed.


Posted by: ralph andrew | Jan 6, 2009 3:40:27 AM