Washington Babylon — May 20, 2008, 10:01 am

Congressman Rangel Clarifies

In a recent story about Hillary Clinton, I stated that Congressman Charles Rangel had, like Clinton, accepted political contributions from attorney Melvyn Weiss, who recently pleaded guilty to paying kickbacks to people who served as lead plaintiffs in class-action lawsuits that netted his New York law firm hundreds of millions of dollars in fees. I also said, citing a news story, that Rangel had once asked lobbyists to underwrite his birthday party.

Congressman Rangel called me today because he felt the the item did not make clear that the event in question is an annual political fundraiser, not a personal party. Rangel said that for about the past 30 years he has held a political fundraiser for his birthday at New York’s Tavern on the Green restaurant. He said he invites “lobbyists and whomever” (the latter group includes friends, family, politicians, and business leaders) to the event and that most of the money raised goes to support fellow Democrats in Congress. The event is perfectly legal and violates no ethics rules.

Meanwhile, Rangel’s campaign wrote to say that his National Leadership PAC has returned all of the money donated by Mr. Weiss since 2001 and given it to the Boys Choir of Harlem. I regret that error; his PAC’s donations were not reflected in campaign finance reports I consulted.

Readers who wish to review the congressman’s campaign finance records should consult opensecrets.org. According to the site, the five top industries that have traditionally supported Rangel are: insurance, legal services, securities, health care, and real estate. Lobbyists rank as his ninth largest group of career donors, having given him about $428,000.

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