USA Today, and its reporters Matt Kelley and Peter Eisler, have an astounding story out that today that really advances our knowledge of the extent of insiderism on Capitol Hill, and how Congress really has become a family business. And as you read the next few paragraphs, remember that they looked at two committees–JUST TWO COMMITTEES–the House and Senate Appropriations Committees–to get their totals.
Think what we’ll turn up when we’ve done the whole Congress!
Members of Congress and their staffs are barred from using their positions for personal profit. But their spouses and other relatives can — and often do — cash in when lawmakers spend taxpayer dollars.
Lobbying groups employed 30 family members last year to influence spending bills that their relatives with ties to the House and Senate appropriations committees oversaw or helped write, a USA TODAY investigation found. Combined, they generated millions of dollars in fees for themselves or their firms.
The connections are so pervasive that, in 2005 alone, appropriations bills contained about $750 million for projects championed by lobbyists whose relatives were involved in writing the spending bills.
“It smells bad; it is bad,” Mickey Edwards, a Princeton University lecturer, said when told of the newspaper’s findings. “If it is not already completely outlawed, it should be.” Edwards served on the House Appropriations Committee during his 16 years as a Republican congressman from Oklahoma.
USA TODAY examined the family ties between lobbyists and the 94 members of the House and Senate appropriations committees, as well as 250 top staffers who serve those members. Those committees control the federal government’s purse strings, allocating hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars each year.
My only complaint: as far as I can tell, the paper’s Web site doesn’t list those thirty family members, their relatives in office or on staff, or any of the $750 million in earmarks for which they lobbied. Let’s hope they’ll rectify that oversight soon!