The outcome of a legislative tussle over rum taxes between Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands remains in doubt, but there is already one clear winner -- the House's top tax writer, Rep. Charles B. Rangel, a New York Democrat who is pocketing campaign cash from both territories.
At issue are competing bills that could make or break a deal that lured rum producer Captain Morgan from its longtime home in Puerto Rico to a new facility in the Virgin Islands with the promise of billions of dollars in subsidies to the liquor company paid out of U.S. rum taxes.
Puerto Rico wants to drastically limit the amount of U.S. rum tax money the islands can give directly to the liquor industry, while the Virgin Islands wants to make permanent the rum-tax rebates to the territories, a change that would bolster its 30-year agreement to subsidize the production of Captain Morgan.
Mr. Rangel, a 20-term incumbent and chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, insists he is not being influenced to pick a winner in the island fight.
"My favorite is the one that carries the most votes," Mr. Rangel said of the two bills being vetted by his committee.
Mr. Rangel, who faces a separate investigation by the House ethics committee for allegedly failing to report millions of dollars in extra income and business transactions, said he was not even being strongly lobbied on the bills.
"Besides Puerto Rico, you are the only one who has asked about it," he told The Washington Times.
But the U.S. Commonwealth of Puerto Rico isn't just asking Mr. Rangel about the legislation.
It has shot up to second in the ranking of places from which Mr. Rangel collected campaign contributions in the current election cycle, according to data compiled by CQ MoneyLine.
Donors in Puerto Rico poured $36,600 into Mr. Rangel's war chest, an amount surpassed only by the $138,400 from donors in his home state of New York.