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Picturing Charlie

The Federal Election Commission has told House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.) that he can use nearly $60,000 in campaign funds to pay for the new portrait of him, according to a draft opinion being circulated by the agency.

Rangel, similar to other powerful committee chairmen from both parties, has commissioned a portrait of himself that will hang in perpetuity in the ornate Ways and Means Committee Room. In an appropriately ornate custom frame, it will be a nice, three-quarters view of the veteran congressman.

Attorneys for Rangel’s reelection campaign, Rangel for Congress, and his leadership PAC, amazingly enough called the National Leadership PAC, asked the FEC if they could use campaign donations to pay for the portrait, and FEC lawyers have tentatively approved Rangel’s request.

The FEC has ruled similarly in previous cases. The full commission is expected to vote on the draft advisory opinion at a hearing next week.

Rangel is the first African-American to chair the Ways and Means Committee, and he is very aware of the symbolic nature of his picture hanging alongside some of the most influential members who have served in the House.

“As I walk around the Capitol, the only black folks I see are slaves holding the goddamn horses,” Rangel told the New York Sun.