House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel says he can't turn over political contributions linked to indicted billionaire Allen Stanford, because the money has already been donated to charity.
The court-appointed receiver in the Securities and Exchange Commission's fraud suit against
Stanford, Dallas attorney Ralph Janvey, demanded last week that $1.8 million of Stanford contributions to various candidates and political committees be turned over to him for distribution to investors.
The contributions include $25,000 to the Rangel Victory Fund, a joint fundraising committee founded by eleven members of Congress including the New York Democrat. But a spokesman says Rangel no longer has any Stanford money to return.
"We will be explaining to the receiver that it is not possible (to) return the money at this point," said spokesman Walter Swett in an e-mail to CNBC. Swett said that's because Rangel donated his share of the Stanford contributions to charity last year.
The day federal authorities raided Stanford's offices—February 17, 2009—Rangel's office announced he was donating $10,800 to charity "given the nature of the charges against Mr. Stanford."
Swett says Rangel's campaign had received $9,800 in direct contributions from Stanford, as well as $1,000 from the joint Rangel Victory Fund. The remaining $24,000 in Rangel Victory Fund contributions—which Janvey wants back—went to the ten other members of the fund. They are Democratic representatives John Boccieri of Ohio, Ash Madia of Minnesota, Eric Massa of New York, Walt Minnick of Idaho, Dan Seals and Debbie Halvorson, both of Illinois; Linda Stender of New Jersey, and New York Congressmen Dan Maffei, Michael McMahon and Jon Powers.
Swett would not say whether Rangel planned to ask them to return their Stanford contributions, but he noted that Rangel does not control the Rangel Victory Fund. Swett would not say why Rangel chose to donate his portion of the money to charity rather than returning the it to the investors.
Other recipients of Stanford contributions have donated at least some of the contributions to charity as well. They include powerful Texas Republican Pete Sessions, the largest individual recipient of Stanford money.
But many others have apparenty kept the money, including the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which received $950,000 according to Janvey.
Janvey said that as of January 31, only $87,800 had been turned over to him. He sent letters to the recipients this month renewing his demand that the money be returned, and has not ruled out going to court to press his case.
Stanford, once the 205th richest American and the sole shareholder in a global financial services group, is charged with running an $8 billion investment scam. On Friday his attorneys sought dismissal of the SEC case against him. (Click for more)
He was a generous contributor to candidates in both political parties, and authorities are reportedly investigating whether those contributions were proper.