Powerful Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel said “cultural and language barriers” were responsible for his failure to declare $75,000 in rental income from a vacation home in the Dominican Republic.
At a press conference in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee also vowed to pay several thousand dollars in federal taxes he owes on the undeclared rental income.
He blamed his problems in part on his difficulty in getting detailed financial statements from the resort’s managers.
“Every time I thought I was getting somewhere, they’d start speaking Spanish,” Rangel said.
Skeptics quickly pointed out that Spanish is the primary language in nearly half the households in Rangel’s New York City Congressional district, The New York Times reported.
Rangel bought the beachfront home at the posh Punta Cana resort and club in 1988, paying $88,900 — putting down $28,900 and taking out a mortgage from the resort owner for the remainder.
The resort made payments to Rangel every six months for his share of the rental income, and stopped charging interest on his mortgage after two years.
Rangel said he was unaware that he received income from the resort because the money was never sent directly to him but was instead used to pay down his mortgage and cover other fees he owed the development.
At the news conference, Rangel said he had asked the House ethics committee to investigate the issues surrounding the villa, and declared: “I personally feel I have done nothing morally wrong … I never had any idea that I got any income.”
But he did acknowledge that he had been “irresponsible” in failing to gather the information that would have been required to report the income.
The vacation home flap is the latest of Rangel’s troubles. Stories surfaced earlier about him living in multiple affordable-housing apartments in New York, and allegations swirled around his fundraising efforts for the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at City College in New York.
Republicans have called for Rangel, who has been in the House since 1971, to step down as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.
In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Republican leaders including House Minority Leader John Boehner wrote: “Given Chairman Rangel’s continuing ethical lapses, he cannot effectively carry out his duties as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.”
But Pelosi told Politico that she has no intention of forcing Rangel out: “Whatever the leaders on their side say, he is very well-respected by members on both sides.”
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