David Kocieniewski reports in the New York Times that former Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau (at right with Rangel) owned stock in Nabors Industries at the time he introduced the company’s CEO Eugene Isenberg to Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY). Isenberg made a $1 million pledge to the so-called Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at the City College of New York (CCNY) while Rangel helped preserve a tax break for Nabors worth hundreds of millions.
Mr. Morgenthau, who has known both Mr. Isenberg and Mr. Rangel for decades, set up two meetings to talk about a donation and hosted the first at the Manhattan district attorney’s office in September 2006.
After Mr. Isenberg donated $100,000 in December 2006, the three men met for a follow-up discussion about the contribution, this time at the Carlyle Hotel in Manhattan. That meeting took place on Feb. 12, 2007, the day the bill that affected the tax loophole was up before Mr. Rangel’s committee.
In interviews in late 2008, Mr. Morgenthau, Mr. Rangel and Mr. Isenberg all gave similar accounts of the two meetings, and said that they did not discuss the tax shelter either in the district attorney’s office or at the Carlyle. (Mr. Isenberg has since given a different version of events: When questioned about the matter at a June 2, 2009, shareholders meeting, he said he did not meet with Mr. Morgenthau and Mr. Rangel at the Carlyle on Feb. 12, 2007.)
Here is how the meetings were reported in Kocieniewski’s original story on November 25, 2008:
On Feb. 12 (2007), the day the bill was being marked up by the committee he leads, Mr. Rangel held two discussions at the Carlyle Hotel in Manhattan. First, the congressman sat down for breakfast with Mr. Isenberg and Mr. Morgenthau to further talk about Mr. Isenberg’s support for the Rangel center, Mr. Morgenthau said. Mr. Isenberg said that after breakfast, he escorted Mr. Rangel across the room, where the lobbyist for Nabors, Kenneth J. Kies, was waiting.
Over sweet rolls and coffee, Mr. Kies asked Mr. Rangel if he would maintain his opposition to the efforts to take away the company’s loophole. Mr. Rangel said he would, Mr. Kies and Mr. Isenberg said in interviews.
At the annual meeting, however, Isenberg denied that he attended the first meeting:
PETER FLAHERTY: There was apparently a meeting at the Carlyle Hotel between yourself; Mr. Morgenthau, who’s the D.A. up there in New York City; and Charles Rangel, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and you talked about Rangel’s center and your gift. And then you walked …
EUGENE ISENBERG: We did not.
PETER FLAHERTY: You did not? So the New York Times is in error on that point?
EUGENE ISENBERG: In error. Yes.
PETER FLAHERTY: OK. And you walked across the room with Mr. Morgenthau …
EUGENE ISENBERG: I didn’t.
PETER FLAHERTY: You did not? OK. And so there was no second meeting on the other side of the room between you, Ken Kies..
EUGENE ISENBERG: There was a meeting. It wasn’t the second meeting. I was not at the first meeting.
PETER FLAHERTY: You were not at the first meeting? But you were present at the second one – who was there; Mr. Keis and …?
EUGENE ISENBERG: And Congressman Rangel.
PETER FLAHERTY: And Congressman Rangel. And you discussed the legislation that was pending before this committee; in fact, it was being marked up that very day.
Click here to download a 7-page pdf of the entire exchange. As I reported at the time, Isenberg was not very happy to see me. He can’t be much happier now that the Ethics Committee has accused Rangel of violating House rules in relation to his gift, especially after Isenberg’s “guarantee” that the Commitee would find nothing amiss.
My sense is that Isenberg was relying on assurances from Rangel that the Ethics Committee would move swiftly to exonerate Rangel, which Charlie seemed himself to believe for months after asking for an Ethics Committee for an investigation in late 2008.
According the Ethics Committee Statement of Alleged Violations, Isenberg’s pledge actually consisted of a personal gift of $500,000, and a Nabors corporate gift of $500,000.
In his August 10 speech on the House floor, when he was not attacking NLPC, Rangel referenced the 91-year old Morganthau as sort of a character witness concerning the Isenberg gift.
Timeline of Charles Rangel Ethics Scandal
Flaherty: Rangel Had to Know of Junket’s Corporate Sponsorship (Fox News Channel video)
Flaherty: Rangel Dirty Even After Coming Clean (CNN/Anderson Cooper video)
Flaherty: Rangel is ‘Serial Offender’ (CNN/Anderson Cooper video)