House Moves to Limit Family Business


The Washington Post reports on a bipartisan effort in the House to ban a practice that Sunlight and citizen journalists investigated in 2006: How many members of Congress were using campaign contributions to pay their spouses, in essence putting special interest money into the family budget?

In the latest ripple of an ethics spat gripping Congress, the House yesterday passed a bipartisan bill that bans lawmakers from paying their spouses for campaign work.

The measure, passed on a voice vote, was sponsored by Reps. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) and Michael N. Castle (R-Del.). It would not bar other family members from working on a lawmaker’s campaign but would require disclosure.

Currently, spouses can work for campaigns provided that they charge fair market value for their services. The measure still has to passed by the Senate.

The meat of the bill is contained in these passages:

(1) PROHIBITING COMPENSATION OF SPOUSES- Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, no authorized committee of a candidate or any other political committee established, maintained, or controlled by a candidate or an individual holding Federal office (other than a political committee of a political party) shall directly or indirectly compensate the spouse of the candidate or individual (as the case may be) for services provided to or on behalf of the committee.

(2) DISCLOSURE OF PAYMENTS TO SPOUSES AND IMMEDIATE FAMILY MEMBERS- In addition to any other information included in a report submitted under section 304 by a committee described in paragraph (1), the committee shall include in the report a separate statement of any payments, including direct or indirect compensation, made to the spouse or any immediate family member of the candidate or individual involved during the period covered by the report.

(3) IMMEDIATE FAMILY MEMBER DEFINED- In this subsection, the term `immediate family member’ means the son, daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, mother, father, brother, sister, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, or grandchild of the candidate or individual involved.

I find it a little odd that “indirectly compensate” isn’t defined — I guess that the Federal Election Commission will determine what that means (if you’re married to a UPS lobbyist, does that mean your campaign can’t ship via UPS?). In any case, here’s Govtrack’s page on the bill.

Just an observation, but I’ve always thought that of the two practices, lobbying by a spouse or immediate family member is potentially far more corrupting — there’s no requirement for a lobbying firm to pay fair market value for the services of a member’s spouse or son or daughter. (See here for one example….)