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Democrats and Republican members of Congress use millions of dollars in campaign funds to pay fat fees and salaries to family members.
The practice is so widespread that lawmakers dismiss it with a nod and a wink and laugh at legislative attempts to ban payments to family members from campaign funds.
Federal Election Commission Reports show Republican and Democratic members of Congress diverted $5.1 million in payments were diverted to family members or entities owned by family members in the past six years and that the practice is increasing with each new campaign season.
Of the 72 members of Congress who routinely use campaign funds to fatten the back accounts of spouses, children and other relatives, 41 are Republicans and 31 Democrats.
Reports Mike Taylor of USA Today:
Seventy-two members of the House of Representatives spent $5.1 million in campaign funds to pay relatives or their relatives' companies or employers during the past six years, a liberal watchdog group says in a report to be released Monday.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) found nearly $3.5 million in campaign payments to relatives during the past three election cycles, from 2001 to 2006. Campaigns paid about $1.6 million to firms owned by or employing the lawmakers or their relatives, the group found.
It is not illegal for federal candidates to pay family members for political work, as long as they are paid fair market value, the Federal Election Commission has ruled. Some would like to change the law because of recent investigations.
Reps. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., and Mike Castle, R-Del., introduced a bill this month that would prohibit congressional candidates from paying their spouses with campaign funds and require campaigns to disclose family relationships with close relatives on the payroll.
"I think the ban on spouses drawing campaign checks is needed because there's simply been too much abuse of the practice," Schiff says.
The House member cited in the CREW report as spending the most campaign funds on a spouse says she supports that proposal.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., paid her husband's firm, Collins and Day, $285,481 over the past six years, the report says.
Lofgren says her husband, John Marshall Collins, has dissolved the firm, which provided accounting, fundraising and regulatory compliance services.
In addition, Lofgren's campaign paid John Marshall Collins PC, a second company controlled by her husband, $62,705 for rent and office services, the report found.
The 10 firms owned by or employing relatives that got the most campaign funds from Congress members 2001-06:
|Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif.||Collins and Day||Husband's company (John Marshall Collins)||$285,481|
|Bob Filner, D-Calif.||Campaign Resources||Wife's company (Jane Filner)||$249,004|
|Howard Berman, D-Calif.||Berman & D'Agostino||Brother's company (Michael Berman)||$195,000|
|Wm. Lacy Clay, D-Mo.||Law Offices of Michelle Clay||Sister's company (Michelle Clay)||$139,314|
|Gary Miller, R-Calif.||G. Miller Development||Self||$124,725|
|Maxine Waters, D-Calif.||Progressive Connections||Daughter's employer (Karen Waters)||$111,124|
|Ric Keller, R-Fla.||Hammon & Associates||Wife's employer (Danielle Michel)||$74,909|
|Ralph Hall, R-Texas||Hall Law Offices||Son's company (Blakeley Hall)||$68,000|
|Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif.||John Marshall Collins P.C.||Husband's company (John Marshall Collins)||$62,705|
|Michael Turner, R-Ohio||Turner Marketing||Wife's company (Lori Turner)||$51,099|
The 10 individual family members who received the most campaign funds from members of Congress 2001-06.:
|Buck McKeon, R-Calif.||Patricia McKeon||Wife||$263,168|
|Ralph Hall, R-Texas||Jody Hall||Daughter-in-law||$181,470|
|Pete Stark, D-Calif.||Deborah Stark||Wife||$176,800|
|Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif.||Rhonda Rohrabacher||Wife||$169,009|
|Ron Paul, R-Texas||Lori Pyeatt||Daughter||$163,890|
|Dan Burton, R-Ind.||Danielle Sarkins||Daughter||$143,900|
|Collin Peterson, D-Minn.||Elliott Peterson||Son||$127,747|
|Bart Stupak, D-Mich.||Laurie Stupak||Wife||$125,236 **|
|Duncan Hunter, R-Calif.||Margaret Hunter||Daughter-in-law||$105,353|
|Louie Gohmert R-Texas||Kathy Gohmert||Wife||$95,703|
Source: Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington