The New York Times and Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.), the embattled chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, are engaged in a war of words over whether the lawmaker protected a lucrative tax loophole that benefitted a $1 million donor to the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service.
So far, the Times is winning the battle.
The newspaper posted an extraordinarily detailed, 1,500-word response this afternoon to a letter that Rangel wrote challenging the accuracy of a Nov. 24 report on Rangel’s dealings with Eugene Isenberg, CEO of Nabors Industries.
The TImes' David Kocieniewski reported that Rangel met with Isenberg and Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau on Feb. 12, 2007, at the Carlyle Hotel in New York City to discuss Isenberg's $1 million gift to the Rangel Center. Rangel then met with Isenberg and his tax lobbyist, Ken Kies, to confirm Rangel's opposition to closure of a multi-million dollar tax loophole that benefitted Isenberg's oil-drilling company, Nabors Industries. The Ways and Means Committee was holding a mark-up that same morning on a bipartisan tax bill, but a provision eliminating the loophole was not included in that legislation, at Rangel's direction, according to the Times.
In his letter, Rangel charged that the Times exhibited "willful blindness to the history of that legislation and a fundamental ignorance of the legislative process that produced it." Rangel's aides said he has always opposed retroactive tax increases; the tax loophole favoring Nabors became law in 2004, but the Senate Finance Committee wanted to retroactively increase the company's taxes in 2007.
The New York Democrat noted as well that Senate Finance dropped the "corporate inversion" provision before House-Senate talks on the tax bill.
Rangel also said he backed a different version of the "cprporate inversion" legislation offered by Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas). "Corporate inversion" refers to the practice by Nabors and other American companies of incorporating overseas in order to avoid U.S. taxes.
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