Rangel won't leave post during ethics probe

Rep. Charles Rangel will not step down as chairman of a powerful tax-writing committee as he undergoes an ethics investigation by fellow lawmakers, his lawyer said Tuesday.

The New York Democrat has faced increasing questions about his future, as Republicans urge his removal from the House Ways and Means Committee over his personal finances, including unreported income on a vacation home in the Dominican Republic that has led to his owing an estimated $5,000 in back taxes.

After 38 years in Congress, Rangel is something of an institution in Washington and his home district of Harlem. Republicans are seeking to highlight the controversy over his finances in the coming election, after Democrats have pounded them on issues of ethics and corruption.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected those calls.

“I see no reason why Mr. Rangel should step down,” she said Tuesday.

Rangel plans to hire a “nationally renowned forensic accounting firm,” to independently review his finances for the past 20 years, and issue a report on their findings directly to the House ethics committee that is scrutinizing Rangel, his lawyer Lanny Davis said.

“Mr. Rangel has not considered, nor has it ever been on the table, that he would step aside from his current position as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee,” said Davis. “He has no intention of leaving that position, even on a temporary basis.”

Ken Spain, spokesman for the House GOP campaign effort, said the decision to keep Rangel in his high-profile position shows Pelosi and House Democrats have “officially abandoned their promise to run the most ethical congress in history and instead embraced the politics of corruption with open arms.”

Rangel has come under scrutiny on a number of issues, but the one that has proven most embarrassing to him as chairman with great say over tax matters is the beach house in the Dominican Republic.

The lawmaker concedes he did not report some $75,000 in rental income on the property over the past two decades, did not know he received a no-interest mortgage from the resort's developers for at least a decade, and owes $5,000 in back taxes to the U.S. and somewhat less to state and city tax collectors.