Rangel Wants Leadership PAC Reform After Spending $64k on Portrait of Self
Congressman Charlie Rangel (D-NY) appeared surprised by how accommodating leadership PAC funds are to members and their personal spending habits after he saw CBS’s 60 Minutes report on Sunday covering the issue based upon Peter Schweizer’s new book Extortion.
“I had no idea the PACs were that flexible and didn't have the same restrictions. I always treat it the way I treated campaign funds. It seems as though for the integrity of the system that the FEC is going to have to make some changes because it's become a pension fund and a perk fund,” said Rangel to Breitbart News on Tuesday night.
He added, “I'm certain that most people don't know that. I know I didn't. I used it for trying to get back the majority and wanting to help candidates. That's why they call it leadership, not personal perks.”
However, according to Breitbart Senior Editor-at-Large Schweizer’s research, Rangel spent money from his own leadership PAC to commission a portrait of himself in 2008. Schweizer writes in his book:
Congressman Charlie Rangel paid $64,500 from his leadership PAC funds to commission a painting of himself. Rangel also paid one of his sons to develop a website. Steven Rangel’s Edisonian Innovation Works received $79,560 to make a website for the National Leadership PAC. The website was not exactly a great investment. As reported in a story in Politico, it looked as if it had been slapped together in a couple of hours. It even included numerous spelling errors, such as “Give Contribuition.” There was an apology that the site was not finished but undergoing “routine maintenance.” One web designer said the website was [so] bad that fee should not have been more than $100.
In 2007, Rangel wrote a letter to the FEC requesting permission to spend either campaign or leadership political action committee funds to pay for his chairman's portrait, the Washington Post reported. The New York lawmaker's portrait was unveiled among colleagues on Capitol Hill at a 2011 ceremony, almost one year after he was censured for ethics violations and lost his chairmanship on the House Ways and Means Committee. According to Politico:
The FEC sided with Rangel later that year, noting that the House generally commemorates committee chairs with portraits in their respective hearing rooms and that neither Rangel nor his family would financially profit from the payment of the portrait.
“The House Committee on Ways and Means will commission the portrait for donation to the U.S. House of Representatives,” the FEC wrote in the advisory opinion. “Representative Rangel’s principal campaign committee or the National Leadership PAC will pay for $64,500 for the cost of the portrait and will not solicit or receive funds to pay for the portrait.”
Rangel is among a number of lawmakers in both parties who have legally used money from their leadership campaign PACs on personal expenditures. Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) used his leadership PAC on expensive golf trips in Pebble Beach, while Congressman Robert Andrews (D-NJ) used money from his PAC to fly his entire family to a wedding in Scotland.
When asked by Breitbart News about his PAC spending, Andrews responded, “I would favor clearer standards for what the leadership PACS are to be used for. I would support that.”
Andrews called the 60 Minutes piece featuring him, his PAC spending, and the Ethics Committee investigation he is under a “political attack.”
“My constituents know the difference. They know a political attack when they see it. I trust their judgment to see the truth in this matter.”