Days after it was revealed that he had not one, not two, but four rent-stabilized apartments — one of which he admitted to using as an office, in apparent violation of City housing law — an initially defiant Representative Charles Rangel has agreed to give up the office, the New York Times reports today.
Rangel had hung tough on his multiple occupancies since the Times broke the story on July 11. “I pay the maximum legal rent,” he said in a press conference that day, “and in fact, would be violating the law if I paid more.”
As for the office, Rangel minimized it at his conference as “a small apartment, which I use for working and to make fund-raising calls. When the apartment was rented about ten years ago, there was no question about whether it was appropriate in view of the fact there were–and still are–other offices in the building.”
On Monday additional pressure was put on Rangel by the National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC), which filed a formal complaint against Rangel with the Federal Election Commission, claiming that the Congressman’s “greatly reduced rent” represented “an illegal corporate contribution from the building owner, the Olnick Organization.”
The famously liberal Congressman could have expected this kind of treatment from the Virginia-based NLPC, which receives major funding from foundations related to the right-wing activist Richard Mellon Scaife. Local conservatives also piled on, citing Rangel’s spread as an example of the evils of rent control: “The Rangel story is a good reason for a through-going investigation of the demography of current rent control tenants,” wrote Howard Husock of the Manhattan Institute in the New York Sun. The Institute’s Nicole Gelinas appeared on local TV news to denounce Rangel’s deal. The New York Post said “Rangel, who’s been openly critical of landlords he deems predatory, has remained remarkably silent when it comes to the folks who collect his rent”; when Rangel announced he was vacating the office, the Post headlined the news “RANGEL: I’M EVICTING MYSELF” and interviewed the NLPC’s Chairman for its story.
Still, the agent of Rangel’s embarrassment was the Times, not generally known as part of the VRWC. Most likely its story was solely the product of industrious reporting. If we were to suspect anyone of giving the Times a nudge, our first choice would be a former business acquaintance of Rangel’s who may have felt that he’d done her wrong.