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WASHINGTON — A nonprofit group has complained to the Federal Election Commission that censured Rep. Charles Rangel of New York improperly paid legal bills from a political action committee.

The National Legal and Policy Center alleged in the recent complaint that Rangel’s National Leadership PAC could not be used under FEC rules for the New York Democrat’s legal defense.

Rangel denied any wrongdoing.

“Anything about abuse of campaign funds just is wrong,” he said in a New York television interview. “It’s ridiculous. The group that put that out has been the group that sends out solicitations that say, ‘Let’s bring down Charlie Rangel.’ ”

The policy center has accused Rangel of ethical wrongdoing numerous times during a House ethics investigation that led to his censure last week for financial and fundraising violations. The misconduct at issue in the House proceeding did not involve the legal fee payments.

The center said Rangel paid $293,000 to his principal defense attorneys from his National Leadership PAC. At least portions of another $100,000 paid to another firm also might have been for his legal defense in that case, the complaint said.

A leadership political action committee is separate from a candidate’s own campaign committee, and is designed to elect other candidates.

“Under no circumstances does the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971…or FEC regulations permit an elected official to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars from a multi-candidate political action committee to cover legal fees for that elected official,” the complaint said.

Rangel said his legal bills totaled about $2 million, with most of the money spent by his own campaign committee. House members can use their campaign committees to pay legal defense fees, or they can separately establish a legal defense fund.

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