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Tag Archive: Campaign Expenditures

Regulating Money in Politics a Global Shortcoming

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Open government advocates around the world (including Sunlight) are thrilled to see how more and more governments commit themselves to openness. Unfortunately, a vital piece of the transparency agenda--party and campaign funding--remain depressingly opaque. Because the financing behind how candidates and parties come to power influence later policy and spending decisions, it is critical that countries address political finance transparency. Sunlight is committed to create a strong base for reform by combining our efforts with other activists and sharing our expertise in a meaningful way.

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House Moves to Limit Family Business

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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.

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Dick Morris Proposes Banning Some of Congress’s Family Businesses

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While it's a little odd see Dick Morris, the former hired gun political advisor of both Bill Clinton and Trent Lott, show an interest in congressional ethics, it's worth noting that among the reforms he proposes (indeed, the top one on his list) is banning campaigns and Political Action Committees from hiring family members of members of Congress. Morris has a pretty long list that includes not just spouses, not just children, but also brothers, cousins, nephews and an in-law:

Those who have hired spouses and family members include: Reps. Richard Pombo (R-Calif.), wife and two brothers; Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), husband’s law firm; Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), wife and step-daughter; John Doolittle (R-Calif.), wife; Ralph Hall (R-Texas), daughter-in-law; Pete Stark (D-Calif.), wife; Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), wife; Ron Lewis (R-Ky.), wife; Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), wife; Jim Costa (D-Calif.), cousin; Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), wife; Dave Reichert (R-Wash.), nephew; Chris Cannon (R-Utah), three daughters; Lincoln Davis (D-Tenn.), sister-in-law and daughter; Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), wife; Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.), daughter; Bob Filner (D-Calif.), wife; J.D. Hayworth (R-Ariz.), wife; Bob Inglis (R-S.C.), wife; Elton Gallegly (R-Calif.), wife; Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.), wife; John Sweeney (R-N.Y.), wife; Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), wife; Ed Pastor (D-Ariz.), nephew; John Shadegg (R-Ariz.), son; and Howard Berman (D-Calif.), brother Michael’s political consulting firm; Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), son; and Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), son and daughter during vice presidential race; and ex-Reps. Bob Ney (R-Ohio), wife; and Tom DeLay (R-Texas), wife and daughter.

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Family Business — 3rd Update

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The basic research is done, and before I begin making the earnest effort to digest the raw results, let me first thank all who participated--especially Beezling, who topped his prolific performance on round one with an incredible turn on round two--he did 319 this time around, doing by far the bulk of the entries. Get that man a fedora and a press pass! More information soon...

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Family Business — Second Update

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Nearly 7 p.m. Sunday, and we're through 296 members and 41 states--pretty incredible. To all who've joined this effort, once again let me offer a heartfelt thank you. Some preliminary numbers as we move toward the final leg, but first let me point out that these a). haven't been verified and b). need to be looked at more closely to figure out what they mean. So keep those caveats in mind. Citizen journalists have tentatively identified $480,029 in campaign expenditures going from a House member's campaign to a firms that employs that member's spouse in the current election cycle. Citizen journalists have also tentatively found that organizations for which House members' spouses work have landed a total of $2,788,663,441--that's $2.7 billion--in federal contracts in 2005 (the last full year for which information is available) and $2,649,935,942--$2.6 billion--in federal grants in 2004 (again, the last year for which we have complete data).

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Citizen Journalists Find Spouses of Incumbents Paid with Campaign Cash

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Some 19 current members of the House of Representatives pay their spouses out of their campaign war chests, totaling more than $636,000 in the current election cycle, a study by citizen journalists working with the Sunlight Foundation has found. Phase one of the "Is Congress A Family Business?" investigation is now complete. Using an innovative tool developed by Sunlight Labs, about 40 volunteers investigated anywhere from one to as many as 155 members, uncovering those who, by hiring their spouses to work for their campaign, allow special interest cash to enter their family budgets. While the federal nepotism statute prohibits members of Congress from hiring spouses to work in their Washington or district offices, there is no law preventing members from hiring family members to work for their campaign committees, provided they render bona fide services to the campaign at fair market value.

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Blogs, Traditional Media, and Following Politics

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John Podhoretz draws a distinction, in his New York Post column, between those who get their information from the awkwardly-named "Mainstream Media" (I prefer traditional media) and those who follow (or follow, in addition to newspaper and television) political blogs and Web sites, and hypothesizes that the latter are getting a much different election picture than the former. Those on "Blog Time," Podhoretz argues, are more attuned to subtle or even significant shifts of voter zeitgeist: Rep. Harold Ford had a bad week; Republicans have put the worst of the ongoing Foley mess behind them; this district's latest poll looks good for the incumbent, and so on so forth. Those on "Mainstream Media Time," by contrast, are getting fed a steady diet of one way stories suggesting that Republicans are in trouble, according to Podhoretz.

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