Herseth Sandlin: Money will go to charitiesU.S. Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin plans to give away past political contributions she received from Charles Rangel, her embattled House colleague.
By: By SETH TUPPER, Forum Communications Co., The Jamestown Sun
MITCHELL, S.D. - U.S. Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin plans to give away past political contributions she received from Charles Rangel, her embattled House colleague.
Speaking Thursday to reporters on a regularly scheduled conference call, Herseth Sandlin, D-S.D., said she’s decided to give the money to South Dakota charities but hasn’t yet decided which ones.
“We’ve been working as it relates to decisions of how to allocate that money, and we’ll share that detail when I’ve made some final decisions on that,” Herseth Sandlin said. “But I’ve already decided to do that.”
Herseth Sandlin said she believes she received contributions from Rangel in 2004 and 2006 totaling about $17,000.
Rangel, D-N.Y., stepped down Wednesday as chairman of the House’s powerful Ways and Means Committee amid an ethics scandal. Rangel has been admonished for breaking House rules by accepting corporate-financed travel and, according to an Associated Press report, faces further inquiries by the House ethics committee over late payment of income taxes on a rental villa he owns in the Dominican Republic, his use of House stationery to solicit corporate donations to an educational institution that bears his name, and belated disclosure of hundreds of thousands of dollars in previously unlisted wealth.
Prior to Herseth Sandlin’s Thursday announcement, Republicans called on her to give away her Rangel contributions and criticized her for not being quick enough to do so. Herseth Sandlin is up for re-election in November, and three Republicans are vying for the chance to oppose her.
A recent poll by Rasmussen Reports showed Herseth Sandlin leading in hypothetical races against each of the three GOP candidates, but Rasmussen deemed her “potentially vulnerable” because she failed to earn 50 percent support against two of the potential GOP nominees.
Republicans tried to use the Rangel scandal to capitalize on Herseth Sandlin’s perceived vulnerability. Lucas Lentsch, executive director of the South Dakota Republican Party, released the following statement Feb. 26:
“Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin promised us tough new ethics reforms for Congress, and along with Nancy Pelosi promised us the most open, honest Congress ever. Unfortunately, Pelosi and Herseth Sandlin have turned a blind eye to Rep. Rangel as he played fast and loose with the ethics rules and tax laws even while remaining the Chairman of the House tax-writing committee.”
Ken Spain, communications director for the National Republican Congressional Committee, added to the criticism Tuesday.
“Charlie Rangel has been embroiled in an ethical storm for years, but that hasn’t stopped Stephanie Herseth Sandlin from lining her campaign coffers with his tainted money,” Spain said in a written statement. “Now that Rangel has finally been busted for his ethical wrongdoings, Herseth Sandlin has egg on her face for repeatedly protecting the embattled chairman.”
Thursday, NRCC spokesman Tom Erickson said it’s good that Herseth Sandlin plans to give away her Rangel contribution, but it’s disappointing that it took scrutiny from Republicans and the media to make it happen.
Erickson also referenced two times when Herseth Sandlin voted against stripping Rangel of his committee chairmanship. Those votes occurred last year on Feb. 10 and Oct. 7.
Herseth Sandlin said Thursday that, in light of more recent information, she now believes stepping down was the right thing for Rangel to do.
“I would have voted to remove him,” she said.
Seth Tupper is a reporter for The Daily Republic in Mitchell, S.D., which is owned by Forum Communications Co.