A watchdog report revealed Thursday that while productivity is down on Capitol Hill, nepotism in Congress is alive and well.
The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington chronicled how 82 congressman have paid their family members to work in congressional offices, campaign committees and political action committees. [See what Jack Abramoff says about corruption in Washington.]
"This report shows lawmakers still haven't learned it is wrong to trade on their positions as elected leaders to benefit themselves and their families," says CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan. "Conduct like this reinforces the widely held view that members of Congress are more interested in enriching themselves than in public service."
Even champions of smaller government, like Texas Rep. Ron Paul, pays six members of his family to serve as campaign staffers.
California Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon gave his wife $228,438 to be his campaign treasurer. Another Calif. Rep., Jerry Lewis, paid his wife $512,293 to work in his congressional office over four years. Lewis' salary is $174,000 a year.
Some representatives, including Louisiana Rep. Bill Cassidy, Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz and Minnesota Rep. Tim Walz didn't pay their wives for campaign tasks, but used campaign finance to reimburse themselves for babysitting.
Under FEC Rules, paying family to provide services in a campaign or in a congressional office isn't on its own illegal if congressman pay fair, market value for the service.
Another way representatives profit is through paying themselves for campaign costs. While CREW found that many of the reimbursements were legitimate, a few stuck out as flagrant abuses of the system.
California Rep. Grace Napolitano loaned her campaign $150,000 to get off the ground in 1998, but then collected an additional $94,000 in interest during the 2008 and 2010 election cycles. [Why Nancy Pelosi Is Attacking Newt Gingrich on Ethics.]
Illinois Rep. Aaron Schock reimbursed himself more than $150,000 for campaign costs, paying himself back for more than $30,000 in hotel bills, for everything from Hampton Inns to five-star resorts in Athens, Greece.
CREW labels the massive expenditures as hypocritical, saying "members should apply the same standards to their own campaign spending, which frequently isopaque, confusingly or improperly reported, and subject to only limited oversight."
See the Study by the numbers:
82 members (40 Democrats and 42 Republicans) paid family members through their congressional offices, campaign committees and political action committees (PACs);
44 members (20 Democrats and 24 Republicans) have family members who lobby or are employed in government affairs;
90 members (42 Democrats and 48 Republicans) have paid a family business, employer, or associated nonprofit;
20 members (13 Democrats and 7 Republicans) used their campaign money to contribute to a family member's political campaign;
14 members (6 Democrats and 8 Republicans) charged interest on personal loans they made to their own campaigns;
38 members (24 Democrats and 14 Republicans) earmarked to a family business, employer, or associated nonprofit.
Top five representatives who paid family to work for them:
Rep. Alcee Hastings, (D-FL) paid his girlfriend $622,574.
Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA) paid his wife $512,293.
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) paid her daughter and grandson a combined $495,650.
Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) paid six different relatives a combined $304,599.
Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA) paid his wife $238,438.
Top five representative's payments or contributions to a family businesses or employer:
Rep. Sue Myrick (R-NC) paid her stepdaughter's company $408,818.
Rep. Waters paid her daughter's company $347,837.
Rep. Tim Bishop (D-NY) paid his daughter's company $250,000.
Rep. Jesse Jackson (D-IL) paid his wife's company $196,000.
Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-MO) paid his sister's company and father's scholarship fund.
- See our latest political cartoons.
- Jack Abramoff: DC corruption didn't go away.
- Opinion: Pelosi should consider own ethics before attacking Gingrich.