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Are Democrats Dropping Rangel's Ethics Inquiry?

12:58 AM, Oct 29, 2008 • By BRIAN FAUGHNAN
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According to Roll Call, Rangel hasn't yet hired the forensic auditor he promised 6 weeks ago, and there's no assurance from Democratic leaders that they'll renew the ethics investigation next year:

An attorney for House Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel (N.Y.) acknowledged Monday that more than six weeks after the senior Democrat announced he would hire a forensic auditor to scour his tax and financial records, he has yet to do so, saying an extensive review process has delayed any action...

Rangel is also under scrutiny by the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, which voted in late September to establish an investigative subcommittee into a multitude of alleged rules violations by the senior lawmaker.

The panel's investigation will examine Rangel's ownership of a Dominican Republic villa - the lawmaker has admitted he failed to report rental income, the nexus of his tax troubles - as well as his use of House parking facilities for long-term vehicle storage, fundraising efforts on behalf of a City College of New York center bearing his name, and the lawmaker's use of multiple rent-controlled apartments as his primary residence...

However, it remains unclear when the ethics panel would resume consideration of the matter if the report is not completed before that time. The committee would be required to initiate a new investigation at the start of the next Congress.

Rangel's attorney is Lanny Davis, who says that Rangel is in negotiations with an auditor and will likely make an announcement next week. Of course, whatever announcement Rangel makes next week is likely to be drowned out by the noise of election day -- a curious coincidence.

Ted Stevens got a lesson yesterday in what can happen when elected officials make errors in their ethics filings. Rangel hopes to shepherd Barack Obama's tax and health care agenda through the Ways and Means Committee, so he has every incentive to try to make this investigation go away. With the Democrats set to expand their majority in the House, are they willing to take the heat that will come with looking the other way on Rangel's transgressions?