SAVANNAH, Ga. -- U.S. Rep. John Barrow will keep $24,000 he took in campaign donations from Rep. Charles Rangel, who is accused of multiple ethics violations.
Through a spokeswoman, the Democrat whose 12th District represents a portion of the Augusta area, rejected Republican opponent Ray McKinney's call for him to give the money to charity.
The spokeswoman, Jane Brodksy, justified Barrow's refusal on the grounds he received it before the ethics case surfaced.
"This essentially is dirty money from a sitting congressman accused of violating tax laws and House rules while chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee," McKinney said. "Barrow should protect his own name and donate this money to a worthwhile charity."
Over the years, Rangel, a New York Democrat serving his 20th term, has raised millions of dollars for Democratic House and Senate candidates.
McKinney is one of dozens of GOP congressional hopefuls trying to use Rangel's campaign largesse as an election issue.
Barrow, whose 12th Congressional District takes in most of Savannah, is seeking a fourth two-year term.
Rangel is accused of - among other things - improperly using congressional stationery to raise funds for a college center in his district to be named after him.
It's also alleged he didn't pay taxes on some income, failed to report assets and improperly used a rent-stabilized apartment in Harlem as a campaign office.
The Ethics Committee announced in July an investigative panel found "substantial reason" to believe Rangel may have broken 13 House rules or other laws.
The finding followed a probe that lasted nearly two years, the committee said.
Congress has not ruled on the validity of the charges and Rangel has denied intentionally misleading anyone. But he stepped down in March as chairman of Ways and Means.
In a separate action, the Ethics Committee said he broke House gift rules by letting corporations pay his travel expenses to meetings in the Caribbean. It required him to repay the money.
Federal Election Commission records show Rangel's Political Action Committee donated $10,000 to Barrow's campaign in 2007, $8,000 in 2006 and $6,000 in 2004.
"Congressman Barrow," Brodksy responded, "is not going to make a symbolic gesture based on contributions he received in past election cycles that were spent a long time ago.
"He has neither received nor accepted any contributions after allegations of ethical impropriety arose."
McKinney, a nuclear power plant manager from Lyons, acknowledged Barrow received the money before ethics allegations surfaced.
But he called Barrow's response a "defining statement."
"There's right and wrong and there's technical right and wrong," he said. "Barrow is choosing to be technically right. He's saying, 'I didn't know about it, but now that I know it, it's still OK because I didn't know it at the time.'
"There's nothing wrong with him receiving the money, but now that he knows it's dirty, he should give it to charity, as other candidates have."
About 30 House members have done so, but many others have - like Barrow - balked.
As of June 30, the end of the last reporting period, he said he'd collected $1.3 million for his current campaign and had more than $615,000 on hand.