On April 21, 2008, Representative Charles B. Rangel met with officials of the American International Group, the now-troubled insurance giant, to ask for a donation to a school of public service that City College of New York was building in his honor.
Mr. Rangel had already helped secure a $5 million pledge for the project from a foundation controlled by Maurice R. Greenberg, one of the company's largest shareholders and its former chief executive. And C.C.N.Y. officials, according to the school's own records, had high hopes for A.I.G. -- a donation of perhaps as much as $10 million.
The company has never made a contribution. But less than a month after Mr. Rangel met with its officials, the company turned to the congressman for help: A senior A.I.G. executive who had attended the fund-raising meeting wrote a letter directly to Mr. Rangel, chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, urging him to support a provision of a tax bill that would save A.I.G. millions of dollars a year, according to Joseph M. Norton, a company spokesman.
Mr. Rangel's exchange with A.I.G. last spring appears to be at odds with the public statements he has made since his fund-raising for the school became an issue. When his approach to A.I.G. was first reported in The Washington Post in July, Mr. Rangel said that he could not recall any issues his committee might have considered in which A.I.G. had an interest.
"I can't think of one piece of legislation that impacts them, and there has never been a time that they've raised any legislation to me," the paper quoted Mr. Rangel as saying. Indeed, in Mr. Rangel's formal submission to the House ethics committee, asking it to review his use of Congressional stationery in soliciting money for the school, he wrote, "So far as I am aware, none of those whom I wrote had any pending requests into my office, lobbied me regarding any legislation before my committee, or asked me for assistance on legislation in which they had a special interest."
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Federal statutes and House ethics rules forbid members of Congress from asking for anything of value from a person or company with business before them.
There is, of course, absolutely no indication in the story that the Democratic leadership in Congress is in any way, shape or form concerned about the dealings of the Ways and Means Committee Chairman. There is no indication that there will be any penalties for the fact that Charlie Rangel broke federal law and House rules and that he lied about his dealings with AIG.
Recall, of course, that in the 2006 midterm elections, Nancy Pelosi promised that if Democrats were given control of Congress, we would have "the most ethical Congress in history."
Some people just don't lose their capacity to surprise and appall, do they?