Rangel Tries to Explain Back Taxes on Villa
WASHINGTON — Representative Charles B. Rangel said on Wednesday that “cultural and language barriers” had hindered him from understanding the finances of his Dominican Republic beach house, and vowed to repay several thousand dollars in federal taxes he owes after failing to report $75,000 in rental income from the villa.
At a Capitol Hill news conference, during which he was by turns remorseful and combative, the congressman said that he had not been aware of the income and unpaid taxes in part because he had trouble getting detailed financial statements from the resort’s managers in the Dominican Republic.
“Every time I thought I was getting somewhere, they’d start speaking Spanish,” Mr. Rangel said.
The explanation was greeted with skepticism and surprise by some people in his district, where Spanish is the primary language in nearly half the households and even Mr. Rangel’s own Congressional Web site can be instantly translated to Spanish with just two clicks of a computer mouse.
The congressman brushed aside calls that he step down as chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, and accused Republicans who have demanded that he do so of trying to exploit his financial missteps.
“I really don’t believe making mistakes means you have to give up your career,” said Mr. Rangel, a Democrat from Harlem.
Mr. Rangel, a lawyer who has been a member of the tax-writing committee for three decades, has found himself on the defensive in recent months because of disclosures about the villa, his use of Congressional stationery to solicit financial support for a City University center that will bear his name and his rent-stabilized apartments in Upper Manhattan.
At the news conference, Mr. Rangel said that he had asked the House ethics committee to investigate the issues surrounding the villa, which include his failure to pay taxes on the rental income and the resort developer’s decision to waive the interest on a mortgage extended to him to buy the home. He had previously requested that the committee examine his rent-stabilized apartments and his fund-raising for the City University center.
The congressman also released copies of documents he has submitted to the committee and pledged to apologize to the public and fellow members of Congress if he was found to have violated House rules.