RELATIVES HAVE 'INSIDE TRACK' IN LOBBYING FOR TAX DOLLARS

October 17, 2006

Members of Congress and their staffs are barred from using their positions for personal profit.  But their spouses and other relatives can -- and often do -- cash in when lawmakers spend taxpayer dollars.

  • Lobbying groups employed 30 family members last year to influence spending bills that their relatives with ties to the House and Senate appropriations committees oversaw or helped write, a USA Today investigation found. 
  • Combined, they generated millions of dollars in fees for themselves or their firms.
  • The connections are so pervasive that, in 2005 alone, appropriations bills contained about $750 million for projects championed by lobbyists whose relatives were involved in writing the spending bills.

USA Today examined the family ties between lobbyists and the 94 members of the House and Senate appropriations committees, as well as 250 top staffers who serve those members.  Those committees control the federal government's purse strings, allocating hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars each year.

The family connections between lobbying and lawmaking are prompting complaints that Congress is not doing enough to police itself.  No rules or laws prevent lawmakers or their staffs from being lobbied by relatives, and proposals to address the practice have stalled on Capitol Hill.

  • The newspaper found 53 cases in which relatives of lawmakers or their top aides worked at lobbying firms last year.
  • In 30 instances, those relatives, or firms in which they are principals, sought money in the appropriations bills their family members or their family members' bosses helped write.
  • Of those 30 relatives, 22 succeeded in getting specific language inserted in the bills that guaranteed money for their clients, USA Today found.

Source: Matt Kelley and Peter Eisler, "Relatives have 'inside track' in lobbying for tax dollars," USA Today, October 17, 2006.

 

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