Sunday, November 14, 2010

Stunner: Sleazebag Pol Even Sleazier Than Imagined

Is anyone surprised by this?
Congressman Charles Rangel, whose ethics trial starts tomorrow, appears to have improperly used political-action committee money to pay for his defense.

Rangel tapped his National Leadership PAC for $293,000 to pay his main legal-defense team this year. He took another $100,000 from the PAC in 2009 to pay lawyer Lanny Davis.

Two legal experts told The Post such spending is against House rules.

"It's a breach of congressional ethics," one campaign-finance lawyer said.

Washington, DC, political lawyer Cleta Mitchell said there is "no authority for a member to use leadership PAC funds as a slush fund to pay for personal or official expenses."

Leadership PACs are typically used by politicians to donate money to other candidates.

But Rangel seems to have run afoul of House ethics rules. Lawmakers are generally allowed to use campaign cash to pay their lawyers, but this is limited to money in their personal campaign committee and they must ask permission first, the campaign-finance lawyer said.

"The only campaign funds that a member may use to pay for congressional expenses are funds of his or her principal campaign committee -- not the funds of a leadership PAC or a multicandidate committee," according to the House Ethics Manual.

Legal fees tied to a campaign, election or performance of official duties are considered congressional expenses.

"Accepting money or payment for legal expenses from any other source, including a PAC, would be a gift and is barred by the House rules," the lawyer said.

The Ethics Committee had no comment. Rangel's office refused to comment on the PAC money.
His ethics trial ought to be amusing.

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