Roll Call Spots Huge Loophole in Earmark Reforms


Roll Call’s John Stanton has noticed that the disclosure requirement for members of Congress who might personally profit from earmarks–part of the reforms adopted by the House and the Senate–doesn’t apply to congressional aides. In October 2006, USAToday ran a big story by Matt Kelley and Pete Eisler that tracked the phenomenon among aides attached to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees and their members, and found that,

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.

In all, USAToday identified 54 relatives of aides and members who lobbied in 2006. And, as Stanton notes, They highlighted a few of them:

• Lobbyist Juliet Pacquing collected $60,000 last year from Rhode Island manufacturer TPI Composites, lobbying disclosure forms show. Her husband, Kevin Cook, is the top staffer for the House Appropriations subcommittee on energy and water, chaired by Rep. Dave Hobson, R-Ohio. In news releases, Hobson took credit for securing money for TPI to develop an Army vehicle similar to the Humvee but with lighter materials. The total: $4.5 million. Hobson said Pacquing’s relationship did not influence him.

• Lobbyist Holly Piper’s firm took in $220,000 last year from e-Cavern, a company seeking federal funding to build an underground facility to protect financial information in a Kentucky cavern. Piper’s husband is Billy Piper, chief of staff to Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., a senior member of the Appropriations Committee and the second-ranking Senate Republican. McConnell added $1.5 million to an appropriations bill for the project. McConnell’s spokesman said Holly Piper’s relationship had nothing to do with the senator’s decision.

And, as Stanton reports, there’s still no requirement that those aides who secure future earmarks for a spouse’s client to disclose any potential conflicts.

I found these bits from the article (regrettably, it’s subscription only) especially interesting:

With no uniform rules governing the connection between lobbyists and aides, some lawmakers have instituted their own rules. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), for instance, have strict rules prohibiting relatives of aides from lobbying their offices.

Likewise, a spokesman for Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) — whose wife, Catherine, is a lobbyist — said “Sen. Stevens has a long-standing policy that staff members’ spouses or his spouse is not to lobby them on any issue.”

A Reid spokesman also said the Majority Leader has banned lobbying of his office by the spouses of aides.

Following the investigation of his office, Specter put in place new rules governing his staff, including a ban on family members of aides lobbying Specter or his staff, barring aides from dealing with firms that employ their family members and full disclosure of any such relationships throughout the earmark consideration process.

Are these written policies? Why aren’t they on the members’ respective Web sites? How many other members have such policies?