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The Washington Post is out with its latest look at who benefits when members of Congress insert earmarks into legislation, with this installment focused on lawmakers' family members. The report found a number of examples of lawmakers directing tax dollars to organizations, businesses and other groups where members of their immediate family work, highlighting a degree of nepotism in federal finances.
After investigating all 535 members of Congress through their federal disclosure forms and public records, the paper found a "broad range of connections between the public and private lives of the nation’s lawmakers," and singled out 16 members who had aided their family members’ affiliates in some way. The group included congressmen from both sides of the aisle.
Among those who were named and shamed were Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), who helped add $4 million to the budget of Starbase, a Pentagon program for which his wife was a contract employee at the time, and Rep. Ed Pastor (D-Ariz.), who directed millions of dollars to an educational scholarship program run by his daughter, whose salary is set by the affiliated university.
According to Capitol Hill lawmakers, earmarking money to the workplace of relatives is allowed as long as the funds do not benefit the individual. On the other hand, senators mandated in 2007 that no member or their immediate family should have any financial interests in the programs receiving the federal cash.
This isn’t the first time Congress has been called out for conflict of interest, but the lawmakers insist they sought advice from congressional panels and were in the clear.
"The executive branch has far stricter ethics standards than Congress does—and Congress has set these standards," Craig Holman of Public Citizen, a nonprofit government watchdog group, told the Post. "The executive branch can’t steer contracts or work to businesses where family members work. They can’t even own stock in industries that they oversee, unlike Congress. It’s complete hypocrisy."
You can read the full Washington Post piece here.