The case against Charlie Rangel

Posted on October 5, 2009. Filed under: Charlie Rangel |

Forty years of tax evasion, misdeeds and contempt

By ISABEL VINCENT and MELISSA KLEIN

On April 9, 1965, a 34-year-old lawyer named Charles Rangel took out a low-interest mortgage to renovate his childhood home — a row house on West 132nd Street that he had just inherited from his grandfather.

The $39,350 loan came from a New York City program to develop low-income housing. Rangel and his sister Frances were to use the money to turn the family home in Central Harlem, which Rangel affectionately called Buckingham Palace, into six apartments.

While Rangel may have thought he scored a sweetheart deal, the loan came back to haunt him during his first run for Congress in 1970. An opponent in the Democratic primary accused him of violating the conditions of the mortgage because he was living in one of the apartments that were supposed to be rented only to poor people,

“If Charlie Rangel is low income, then we have a new crisis in this country,” Jesse Gray, a longtime housing activist, charged.

Rangel brushed aside the accusations, and went on to defeat both Gray and Adam Clayton Powell, who had held the Harlem congressional seat since 1944.

But even as he celebrated his victory, the loan dogged the young, ambitious politician. City and federal investigators launched a probe into the dealings of the $135 million Municipal Loan Program, which was set up to give loans to building owners who couldn’t otherwise get funding to rehabilitate their properties. The Post, in a front-page story in July 1971, fingered the newly minted Congressman and another elected official in the scandal.

Rangel denounced the accusations by attacking the “yellow journalism” of The Post and said that he didn’t see anything wrong with living in a Harlem apartment renovated with money reserved for poor people. He also said he was not a public official when he received the 1965 loan.

“The New York Post has the power to destroy,” said Rangel at a 1971 press conference in his Harlem office. “I received a loan to rehabilitate a building I lived in all my life, to rebuild my homestead where five low-income families now live.”

But even people who should have been his political allies were upset.

“I am shocked that Congressman Rangel, who has a Congressional budget of more than $200,000 a year, has used thousands of dollars of New York City money to feather his own nest when welfare recipients are being thrown out into the streets or being forced to live in squalid hotels,” said Leonard de Champs, chairman of Harlem’s Congress of Racial Equality, a civil rights group.

See the rest @ The New York Post

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