NYT: Disclose lawmaker charity donations

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The New York Times calls for the full and proper disclosure of donations to charities set up by lawmakers:

Congressional rules require corporate lobbyists to disclose donations to lawmakers’ charities, but many fail to do so with no consequence. The charities themselves are not required to disclose their donors, and there are no limits to the amount a donor can give. The Office of Congressional Ethics looked into a few of these foundations last year, but was stymied when the House granted several congressmen the right to solicit donations even when the donors had business before their committees.

The art of currying favor in Washington is an ancient one, and both lawmakers and corporations have become exceptionally creative at finding ways around every legal obstacle reducing the influence of big money. But these “donations” need to be fully disclosed and strictly limited like the campaign contributions they resemble. Members of Congress should pay heed to the rising tide of anti-incumbent disgust this year and stop acting like greedy chiselers of corporate largess.

I’m not sure that these donations need to be “strictly limited,” but they certainly ought to be fully disclosed. The disclosure should not be limited to lobbyists or corporate money, but should include the executives and other non-lobbyists who choose to funnel money to these charities.

This editorial is in response to a New York Times article, published on Monday, that highlighted the ways in which lawmakers use charities to court corporate donors and build mini-fiefdoms in their districts and states by displaying their beneficence.

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