Capitol Assets: Some Legislators Send Millions to Groups Connected to Their Relatives
Some members of Congress send tax dollars to companies, colleges and community groups where their spouses, children and parents work as salaried employees, lobbyists or board members, according to an examination of federal disclosure forms and local public records by The Washington Post.
A U.S. senator from South Dakota helped add millions to a Pentagon program his wife supervised as a contract employee. A Washington congressman boosted the budget of an environmental group that his son ran as executive director. A Texas congresswoman guided millions to a university where her husband served as a vice president.
Those three members are among 16 who have taken actions that aided entities connected to their immediate family. The findings stem from an examination by The Post of all 535 members of the House and Senate, comparing their financial disclosure forms with thousands of public records. The examination uncovered a broad range of connections between the public and private lives of the nation’s lawmakers.
Several of the cases have received previous media attention, raised by local newspapers or campaign opponents, but the practice has continued unabated, The Post found.
Lawmakers said in interviews the actions they took were not intended to directly benefit their relatives or themselves. Instead, they say, the largesse was meant to assist corporations, educational programs and community organizations that employ, educate and help residents in their congressional districts.
In some cases, the lawmakers sought advice from congressional committees assigned to examine possible conflicts on Capitol Hill. The panels informed them that the practice of earmarking money to the workplaces of relatives is permissible, as long as tax dollars are not going directly to or solely benefitting their husbands, wives, sons or daughters. Several of the lawmakers also certified to congressional committees that neither they nor their immediate family members stood to benefit from the earmark in question.