Should lawmakers have to disclose their mistresses?


Lawmakers have to disclose the income earned by their spouse on their financial disclosures. They have to disclose whether their spouse or children received privately paid travel on their travel disclosures. Why shouldn’t they have to disclose their mistresses (or kept men, in the case of women or gay men) when they receive benefits from private individuals due to their relationship with the lawmaker?

Now this may be a bit facetious, but it’s clearly become an issue in Congress. Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. was found to have used a major donor to fly his mistress to visit him in Chicago. Sen. John Ensign is still under federal investigation for making payments, through his parents, to his mistress’ family. If similar payments would be required to be disclosed for spouses why not apply them to mistresses too?

This does seem to be an in kind gift to the member, particularly in the case of Rep. Jackson, and those should be disclosed or prohibited. I wonder if the ethics committee would care to look into the violation of gift rules in this case.

In the 1970s there were a number of cases of lawmakers hiring their mistresses as secretaries. Some of them couldn’t even type. Rep. Wayne Hays and John Young kept their mistresses on staff. Rep. Allen Howe and Joe Waggonner were found guilty on prostitution charges. This was all before the passage of the Ethics in Government Act of 1978.

The Ethics in Government Act instituted the disclosure regime that governs privately paid travel and financial disclosure. Perhaps it should be expanded to include the perks that lawmakers secure for their paramours.