When is a charity scandal not a scandal? Apparently, when it’s a Democrat’s scandal.
You may remember all the press related to Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff’s misdealings with various charities. If your memory is hazy, just search the website of the leftish National Center for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP), and you’ll find 34 different items to peruse.
But don’t bother searching NCRP’s site for anything about Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), whose dealings with the humbly named Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at the City College of New York have forced even his fellow Democrats in the House to bring him up on ethics charges.
The Chronicle of Philanthropy does slightly better on the bipartisan scandal meter, averaging something like one blog mention per year of this now-three-year-old scandal. Of course, if you're looking for misdeeds by Abramoff, the Chronicle has dozens of items on that topic.
It’s not as if information on the Rangel scandal has been hard to find. Last week the feisty New York Post recapped its dogged pursuit of the story through the years:
Rep. Charles Rangel's scandal woes began three years ago, when The Post disclosed that he was soliciting massive donations from companies with interests before Congress in a bid to bankroll a center in his name at CCNY.
The July 23, 2007 bombshell by Washington correspondent Geoff Earle detailed how Rangel, then the powerful chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, had attempted to quietly secure close to $25 million from a slew of private companies and foundations for the Charles Rangel Center for Public Service. Those ponying up cash included AIG, the Verizon Foundation, and Eugene Isenberg, the CEO of the energy firm Nabors Industries
The Wall Street Journal has also weighed in, noting the millions of tax dollars the Congressman earmarked for his eponymous center, as well as the precise tax law provisions that Chairman Rangel was overseeing as he solicited charitable donations from some of the biggest businesses threatened by those provisions. Nonprofit observers will also be interested to learn from the Journal that the Ford Foundation was a generous donor, as was the Starr Foundation chaired by former AIG CEO Hank Greenberg.
Still, is this really a big deal? Well, even the New York Times’ reporter was surprised when the Ethics Committee unveiled the full scope of its charges:
The committee said Mr. Rangel not only reached out to corporate executives seeking contributions to the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at City College, but he also personally sought donations from registered lobbyists whose corporations had business before Congress. In some cases, Mr. Rangel asked for contributions of as much as $30 million from businesses with issues before the Ways and Means Committee, of which he was the chairman.
For even more years than Congressman Rangel’s charity scandal has festered in the public eye, NCRP has demanded sterner regulation of nonprofits connected to politicians. It’s a mystery how they have failed to protest his apparent abuses. After all, Rangel couldn’t have been off NCRP’s radar screen: They needed his Ways and Means committee to sign off on the charitable reforms they want to see made law.