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Rangel to pay $23,000 fine for campaign violation

By Kristina Sgueglia, CNN
updated 3:29 PM EDT, Tue March 27, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Rangel has served in Congress for more than 40 years
  • He was previously cited by the House Ethics Cmte. for other rules violations
  • A Rangel spokeswoman says the agreement to pay fine is not admission of guilt

New York (CNN) -- Veteran congressman Rep. Charles Rangel and his campaign have agreed to pay a $23,000 civil penalty in a settlement over the use of a rent-stabilized apartment as his campaign headquarters, according to Federal Election Commission documents.

In response to a complaint originally filed by the National Legal and Policy Center in 2008, the commission found that the 21-term Harlem Democrat violated federal law by paying a reduced market price for a space used as the New York headquarters for multiple campaigns for over a 10-year period, and by failing to report the deduction as an in-kind donation.

The documents, which were dated March 23, showed Rangel leased four rent-stabilized apartments in the Lenox Terrace luxury complex in Harlem, three of which he used as his residence. The fourth served as an office for both his Congressional re-election fund and National Leadership PAC, according to the documents, which were provided to CNN by Ken Boehm, chairman of the NLPC.

New York City housing codes require that an apartment be the primary residence of a tenant in order to qualify for rent-stabilization. Accordingly, the landlord, Fourth Lenox Terrace Associates, has been slapped with a civil penalty of $19,000 for making excessive contributions to the Rangel committees in the form of improper rental discounts.

"There are plenty of gray area complaints in election law," Boehm told CNN Tuesday. "This was about as black and white as you can get."

Neither Rangel nor his campaign have released an official statement reacting to the decision, but Rangel spokeswoman Hannah Kim told CNN, "People settle not because they're guilty but because they don't want to go through the cumbersome process and expense to show they're not guilty."

Rangel has had a tumultuous history of infractions against House rules that have tainted the legacy of his more than 40-year term in Congress.

In 2008, the House Ethics Committee announced it was establishing a panel to investigate Rangel for charges that included accepting trips to the Caribbean paid for by corporate interests. He was admonished by the committee in 2010 and ordered to repay the money for trips to the Caribbean in 2007 and 2008.

On the heels of a broadening House ethics investigation, Rangel stepped down from his prominent position as chairman of House Ways and Means committee in March of 2010.

Later that year, the House Ethics Committee found Rangel guilty on 11 counts of violating House rules, including failing to pay taxes on a vacation home in the Dominican Republic and improperly using his office to raise money for an educational center bearing his name.

Soon after, the committee voted 9-1 to recommend that the House censure Rangel and that he pay restitution for any unpaid taxes. The House followed the recommendation, censuring the New York congressman in an overwhelming 333-79 vote.

The congressman plans to run for a 22nd term in November.

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