Progressives like Congressman Charlie Rangel have a similar “fatal flaw.” The mistake they always make stems from their belief that they know much more than the public. What the rest of the country looks upon as political favoritism, Rangel and his ilk sees. as a more appropriate use of public funds, such as giving a tax break to a million dollar donor to the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at the City College of New York.
The latest example of Rangel hubris involves a grant of a $2.6 million taxpayer dollars given to Alianza Dominicana by a Rangel sponsored group, despite serious concerns about Alianza Dominicana’s finances.
The NY Post is reporting that the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone, a group sponsored by Congressman Rangel to distribute tax money to local community groups, approved the grant to Alianza Dominicana, even after one of the zone’s own finance executives refused to sign off on the cash and questioned the nonprofit’s checkered balance sheet.
The executive then left the nonprofit over the grant, sources said. The six-member board of the umbrella New York Empowerment Zone, which includes Rangel, unanimously approved the money to Dominicana on June 29 — just weeks before the House charged the embattled Democratic lawmaker with a litany of ethics violations.
Rangel introduced the legislation to create both the New York and Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zones and has been long known to exert influence on them. The organizations are funded with $300 million in federal, state and city money.
Alianza Dominicana, a social services agency set up in 1985, said it needs the money for its new $19 million headquarters, known as the Triangle Building. The sleek, six-story structure is in its final phase of construction at the intersection of Audubon Avenue, 166th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue.
Here are some of the “other” things Alianza Dominicana needs to do with its money:
- Alianza owed $526,000 in back wages to 200 workers last month, according to the state Labor Department. Alianza — which pays $150,000 annually to its CEO, Moises Perez — said it stiffed employees because its funding was sporadic. It has since paid about $268,000 of what it owes.
- A landlord threatened to kick the group out of its old offices for not paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in rent.
- Public documents show that during the last few years the nonprofit has owed money to the IRS, building suppliers and the state Insurance Fund. It had a whopping $914,671 accounting bill in 2009.
Rangel spokesman Elbert Garcia shrugged off the liens against Alianza, saying, “This is not some fly-by-night operation.” “Of course the congressman supports them. They’ve done a lot of good for the community,” Garcia said.
That is the problems a true fiduciary guardian would hold off on giving that group any public money until it straightened up its own finances, but Rangel knows better.
Rangel and Alianza have long been close. The 40-year Harlem legislator earmarked $250,000 in federal funds to the group on Dec. 8, a month after Alianza founder Perez lauded Rangel on the steps of City Hall. Perez has poured thousands into Rangel’s campaign coffers over the years.
Whether the ethics charges against Rangel can be proved or not, his attitude of knowing how to spend our tax dollars better than the American people shows that he no longer grasps his responsibilities and he will be led to and over the edge of ethics violations over and over. If this ethics scandal does not get him thrown out of Congress, the next one will.