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N.M. Reps. Won't Return Rangel's Campaign Cash

By Michael Coleman
Journal Washington Bureau
          WASHINGTON — Reps. Martin Heinrich and Harry Teague say they have no plans to return campaign contributions from Rep. Charlie Rangel of New York, who stepped down Wednesday as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee amid an ethics scandal.
        According to Federal Election Commission records, Heinrich accepted $12,000 in campaign contributions from Rangel during the 2008 campaign cycle, while Teague took $4,500. Neither of the first-term New Mexico Democratic congressmen has accepted any campaign cash from Rangel during the current cycle in which they are seeking re-election.
        "That was money that was raised before he (Teague) was in Congress, and that money was spent on that (2008) campaign," spokeswoman Sara Schreiber said.
        "That money has been spent," said John Blair, a spokesman for Heinrich.
        According to FEC reports, Heinrich had $835,942 in campaign money in the bank as of Dec. 31, 2009, the last reporting period. Teague had $886,944 in campaign cash at the end of 2009.
        Republicans are making the most of the political opportunity to tie incumbent Democrats to Rangel, who stepped down, at least temporarily, amid allegations he broke House rules by accepting travel paid for by corporations.
        Rangel, who faces a number of other ethics allegations, has blamed mistakes by staff.
        The National Republican Campaign Committee fired off a statement alleging Heinrich and Teague are "in the eye of an ethical storm" and are "letting Rangel off the hook" by keeping campaign contributions.
        Blair and Schreiber both said their bosses supported Rangel's decision to give up his chairmanship of the Ways and Means Committee.
        It is not unusual for members of one party to call on those of another to return "tainted" campaign money given to them by embattled members of Congress. It's also nothing new for the members in question to refuse.
        Former Rep. Steve Pearce, a Republican challenging Teague to reclaim New Mexico's 2nd District seat in 2010, refused to return $19,500 he received in 2002 and 2003 from former House Majority Whip Tom DeLay when DeLay came under legal fire.
        However, while in office, Pearce did return $3,000 he received from former Rep. Randall "Duke" Cunningham, who was convicted of taking bribes from defense contractors and sentenced to prison.

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