Transgressions with Charlie: The Baucus-Rangel Leadership Fund

As Charlie Rangel puts his “two-year nightmare” of ethics investigations and censure behind him, let's recall some of his ethical lowlights that never made it to the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct.

Let me start with my favorite fundraising entity of all time: The Baucus-Rangel Leadership Fund, created in 2007.

What do Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., and Max Baucus, D-Mont., have in common? Well, there is a Harlem, Montana, but I suspect the two had something else in mind when they formed a joint fundraising committee just after coming into the majority. You see, Rangel had just taken over as chairman of the Ways & Means Committee, while Baucus had just assumed the gavel of the Senate Finance Committee — these are two committees with jurisdiction over tax law.

Think about this for a second: two lawmakers, bound only by the fact they were now in charge of writing tax law, launched a joint committee that hosted fundraisers — with the money then distributed to the two chairmen. It's hard to imagine a straighter line from contributions to legislation. It was basically like putting “Tax Law” on eBay and looking for bidders.

The donors were largely developers, lobbyists, and folks from Goldman Sachs and Bear Stearns. I covered the Baucus-Rangel Leadership Fund in a 2008 column.

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