Rep. Charles Rangel, who was publicly admonished four years ago by the Ethics Committee for accepting improper travel, has failed to report an all-expenses-paid trip he took to China last year.
The 84-year-old New York Democrat joined a 10-lawmaker delegation from the Congressional Black Caucus for a weeklong China trip last August. Seven of the other lawmakers on the trip listed it on their annual financial-disclosure forms, made public earlier this month. The two other attendees, Reps. Gregory Meeks and Sheila Jackson Lee, have not yet filed their reports, after asking for extensions.
Only Rangel has failed to report the trip. [UPDATE: Following publication of this story, Hannah Kim, Rangel's spokeswoman, said in an email that the "congressman has taken immediate action to file necessary amendments."]
The overseas excursion was funded by the government of China through the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act, which allows foreign nations to take members of Congress abroad on State Department-sanctioned "cultural exchange" trips.
There are few details of the trip, which unlike more common nonprofit-funded travel are not required to be reported publicly within weeks of occurring. In fact, by leaving it off his annual financial disclosure, Rangel is set to never acknowledge he went abroad on the all-expenses-paid trip.
National Journal first revealed the existence of the caucus's China trip in a January article about the growing role of the influence industry in planning international trips abroad.
The others from the CBC who joined Rangel, Meeks, and Jackson Lee in China were Reps. G.K. Butterfield, Andre Carson, Emanuel Cleaver, Marcia Fudge, Hank Johnson, Donald Payne, and Frederica Wilson—all Democrats. In an email last December about the trip, CBC spokeswoman Ayofemi Kirby said all 10 lawmakers were accompanied by an aide, along with three Black Caucus staffers.
New public disclosures show that the journey included stops in Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong. Kirby said in the email that the delegation met with the vice premier and the minister of ethnic affairs, among other Chinese officials.
Rangel, who was elected to his 23rd term in the House earlier this week after a tough primary challenge, has faced questions about his international travels before.
In 2010, the House Ethics Committee found that Rangel violated House rules by accepting free trips to the Caribbean in 2007 and 2008 that were underwritten by corporate money earmarked for congressional travel. An investigative report of the committee said Rangel's staff knew of the corporate funding and ordered Rangel to repay the costs of the trip. Other lawmakers from the Congressional Black Caucus had gone on the same trips, but only Rangel was found to have done so while his staff knew about the improper funding.
In the wake of that report, Rangel stepped down as chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee.
The travel case, however, turned out to be the least of Rangel's ethics problems that year. In December, the House voted to censure him—the most severe punishment shy of expulsion—for 11 other violations of congressional ethics rules.
The violations included failing to pay all his taxes and filing misleading financial statements.
This article appears in the June 27, 2014 edition of NJ Daily.