Thursday, July 29, 2010

How Corrupt Charlie Pays His Lawyers

From Timothy Carney in the Washington Examiner:

Two of the three firms providing legal counsel to Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., in his pending ethics cases are lobbying firms. In fact, one firm, Oldaker, Belair & Wittie, conducts much of Rangel's political fundraising, while operating four different lobby shops.

But who's ultimately paying Rangel's legal bills? Mostly corporate and union political action committees along with individual lobbyists. Over the past six months, PACs and lobbyists have accounted for a majority of the money Rangel's campaign has raised this year, not counting transfers from Rangel's other fundraising operations (more on them below).

In turn, Rangel funnels his campaign cash into his legal defense. In 2009, three-fourths of Rangel's $2.16 million in campaign spending went to legal fees. The House Ethics Committee allows campaign funds for legal fees that are not "primarily personal in nature, such as a matrimonial action, or could result in a direct personal benefit for the Member." Otherwise, legal fees are a legitimate use of campaign cash because "the protection of a Member's presumption of innocence in such actions is a valid political purpose," the guidelines state.

That means any politically savvy donor who cut a check in 2010 to Rangel's reelection knew the donation was, in part, a contribution to Rangel's legal defense -- indeed, in the first two quarters of 2010, Rangel's campaign spent $655,232, with $230,749 (35 percent) going to legal fees. Zuckerman Spaeder LLP got biggest haul of Rangel cash -- $182,000. The firm had lobbying clients including one top drugmaker until last year, when the K Street legal shop de-registered as lobbyist.

Pathetic, but not surprising.

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