A story in today’s Roll Call (subscription required) notes that California GOP Congressman John Doolittle’s wife is earning more money than ever this year from fundraising activities on behalf of her husband.
It’s been reported earlier – including in a blog here last week – that she’s been collecting a 15 percent commission on all contributions to her husband’s leadership PAC. Julie Doolittle runs a fundraising business out of the family home in Oakton, Virginia – though it doesn’t advertise and she is apparently the only employee.
Now it seems she’s collecting even more money from her commissions – but this time it’s coming from donations to Doolittle’s campaign committee.
In other words, if the candidate’s wife “raises” a $1,000 contribution for her husband’s reelection, $150 of that is passed directly to the candidate’s own family. You can see the expenditures for yourself on OpenSecrets. So far this election cycle, Doolittle’s reports are showing a total of $54,163 going to “Sierra Dominion Financial Solutions” – Julie Doolittle’s one-person business operating out of the family home.
Federal laws specifically prohibit the “personal use” of campaign contributions, though the Federal Election Commission has interpreted this rather generously. It’s ruled in the past – for instance in an advisory opinion issued in 2001 – that family members working on campaigns may be paid salaries, as long as the salary is commensurate with the going rate for that kind of work.
I remember a case back in the early 90s when Alan Keyes actually paid himself a hefty salary out of campaign funds while he was campaigning for a U.S. Senate seat from Maryland. His argument was that as a full-time candidate, he was entitled to a salary commensurate with his professional talents. The FEC agreed.
All of which makes it sound like the Doolittle family’s convenient arrangement won’t be blocked by the FEC or anyone else. All we can do is monitor the money – and I see in Doolittle’s latest FEC filing, for the month of June – that Julie Doolittle’s Sierra Dominion firm collected yet another $6,985.99 from her husband’s campaign.
Since we still haven’t hit the peak fundraising season for congressional campaigns – that comes in September and October – the Doolittle family will be reaping quite a bonanza this year from the “business” of running for reelection.
That kind of financial ingenuity might make an interesting case study for the Harvard Business School, but it deserves an “F” in civics class – and far greater scrutiny from the press, the public and the FEC.