How Members of Congress Enrich Their Families

Flickr/<a href="http://www.fotopedia.com/items/flickr-466229969">Tobym</a>


The New York Times had an interesting item in this morning’s paper about nepotism in Congress. Basically, a new investigative report by the group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington found that hundreds of legislators use their positions to enrich family members, either directly by paying them for campaign-related activities or by earmarking funds for organizations where relatives serve as board members. According to the report, for instance, Rep. Ron Paul doled out more than $300,000 in salaries and fees to kin or in-laws. (There were payments of various kinds to Paul’s wife, daughter, two sons, grandson, daughter’s mother-in-law, two granddaughters, daughter-in-law, and a grandson-in-law.) CREW looked at the 2008 and 2010 election cycles and found 248 legislators worthy of inclusion in its report, which also included pols with lobbyist relatives and other sketchy stuff—see belowTo find out whether your own elected officials muck about in this ethical swamp, you can download the org’s full report from the link above. But here are the summary stats: 

  • 82 members (40 Democrats and 42 Republicans) paid family members through their congressional offices, campaign committees and political action committees (PACs);
  • 44 members (20 Democrats and 24 Republicans) have family members who lobby or are employed in government affairs;
  • 90 members (42 Democrats and 48 Republicans) have paid a family business, employer, or associated nonprofit;
  • 20 members (13 Democrats and 7 Republicans) used their campaign money to contribute to a family member’s political campaign;
  • 14 members (6 Democrats and 8 Republicans) charged interest on personal loans they made to their own campaigns;
  • 38 members (24 Democrats and 14 Republicans) earmarked to a family business, employer, or associated nonprofit.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

Share your feedback: We’re planning to launch a new version of the comments section. Help us test it.