Transgressions with Charlie: The sprinkler shakedown

Some of Charlie Rangel's most entertaining foibles never made it to the House Ethics Committee. Last week I revisted the Baucus-Rangel Leadership Fund,a joint fundraising committee by which the two top authors of tax law hit up developers and Wall Street types for contributions.

Today I wanted to recall an obscure bit of federal legislation Rangel moved, with very suspicious timing. Here's the meat:

In the first three months of 2009, Rangel raised $279,959, with 59 percent of that coming from political action committees. Only one PAC contributed the maximum $10,000: The National Fire Sprinkler Association, which cut $5,000 checks Jan. 7 and Jan. 9.

A week later, NFSA President John Viniello told his Illinois and Wisconsin chapters that Rangel “will be supportive” of the Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act, according to the NFSA's newsletter.

Two weeks after that, on Feb. 1, the NFSA held a fundraiser for Rangel — a $700-a-head breakfast in New York City, attended by a dozen executives and owners of fire sprinkler companies. “He's crucial to the bill,” NFSA spokesman Jim Dalton explained to me in discussing the fundraiser.

The bill never became law.

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