Category Archives: Elected Officials

Family Affair

Source: Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), 2012

From the summary:
This report marks the first-ever complete study of how members of the House of Representatives use their positions to benefit themselves and their families. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) undertook a similar study in 2007, but it was not all-inclusive. Expanding on our earlier work, for this 2012 edition we reviewed every sitting member of the House.

CREW’s investigation uncovered 248 members meriting inclusion in this in-depth compilation, which covers the 2008 and 2010 election cycles.
CREW’s key findings:
• 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.

There are, of course, members who stand out. Rep. Ron Paul’s campaign (R-TX) paid six relatives salaries or fees, the most of any member. Among those who paid relatives well into the six figures: Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA) paid his wife and campaign treasurer $238,438 in salary, Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-MO) paid his sister’s law office $292,557 in fees, and Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA) paid his wife $512,293 to work in his congressional office. Three representatives – Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Ja son Chaffetz (R-UT) and Tim Walz (D-MN) -reimbursed themselves and their wives for babysi tting costs, an expense those without access to campaign funds typically pay out of their own pockets.

LittleSis

Source: LittleSis, 2012

LittleSis is a free database detailing the connections between powerful people and organizations.

We bring transparency to influential social networks by tracking the key relationships of politicians, business leaders, lobbyists, financiers, and their affiliated institutions. We help answer questions such as:

Who do the wealthiest Americans donate their money to?
Where did White House officials work before they were appointed?
Which lobbyists are married to politicians, and who do they lobby for?

All of this information is public, but scattered. We bring it together in one place. Our data derives from government filings, news articles, and other reputable sources. Some data sets are updated automatically; the rest is filled in by our user community.

A smart ALEC threatens public education

Source: Julie Underwood and Julie F. Mead, Phi Delta Kappan Magazine, V93 N6, March 2012

From the abstract:
Coordinated efforts to introduce model legislation aimed at defunding and dismantling public schools is the signature work of this conservative organization.

Public education has historically been in the public and political eye. Then came 2011 and the high profile and well televised protests in Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana. In each case Republican Governors and Republican controlled state legislatures had introduced substantially similar bills that sought sweeping changes to each state’s collective bargaining statutes and various school funding provisions. What was going on? How could elected officials in multiple states suddenly introduce such similar legislation? The answer: The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which has become a very efficient mechanism for corporations to exercise political power — and they have.

Labor on the Line

Source: David Harrison, CQ Weekly, Vol. 70 no. 5, February 6, 2012
(subscription required)

A “confluence of events,” including Republican militance and budget austerity, is threatening America’s unions. For labor, the 2012 elections may be the most important in decades.
See also:
Governors Bruised in Anti-Union Bids
Source: Micheline Maynard, CQ Weekly, Vol. 70 no. 5, February 6, 2012

Forget Stocks Or Bonds, Invest In A Lobbyist

Source: Alex Blumberg, NPR, Morning Edition, January 6, 2012

Corporations don’t lobby Congress for fun. They lobby because it helps their bottom line. Getting a regulation gutted or a tax loophole created means extra cash for the corporation. But getting laws changed can be very expensive. How much money does a corporation get back from investing in a good lobbyist?… [F]or every dollar spent on lobbying, the companies got $220 in tax benefits….
See also:
Measuring Rates of Return for Lobbying Expenditures: An Empirical Analysis under the American Jobs Creation Act
Source: Raquel Meyer Alexander, Stephen W. Mazza, Susan Scholz, April 8, 2009

Citizen and Lobbyist Access to Members of Congress: Who Gets It and Who Gives It?

Source: Josh Brodbeck, Matthew T. Harrigan, Daniel A. Smith, APSA 2011 Annual Meeting Paper, August 2011

From the abstract:
Members of Congress grant access to outsiders as a means of alleviating policy and electoral uncertainty. But just who is granted this access, and which members are more likely to grant it? In an experiment conducted in the spring of 2010, one of the authors called the offices of each member of the Senate, first as a private citizen and then as a registered federal lobbyist, and requested a meeting with each senator to discuss a health care bill that had been in committee for some time. The lobbyist experienced a clear advantage over the citizen in securing meetings — with 27 to the citizen’s seven — and also came out in ahead in other measurable categories The experiment also offers some signs as to what sorts of Senators grant access to citizens or lobbyists, albeit with less clarity. While the results of the experiment are not entirely definitive, they do suggest that several questions about citizen and lobbyist access to Congress remain and need to be addressed with future studies.

Citizens United

Source: APSA Annual Meeting Papers, 2011

A number of papers on Citizens United were presented at the 2011 American Political Science Association (APSA) annual meeting:

A Model of Inequities in Campaign Money in State Legislative Elections
by: Greg Vonnahme, August 26, 2011

After Citizens United and Speechnow.Org: Considering the Consequences of New Campaign Finance Activities
by: Diana Dwyre, August 2011

Citizens United, States Divided? The Effects of Transparency on State Political Campaigns
by: Abby K. Wood, Douglas M. Spencer, 2011

Constitutional Rights for Non-People: Citizens United and the Quiet Emergence of Associations as Rights-Bearing Political Actors
by: Wayne Batchis, August 2011

Money’s Been Talking: How Citizens United v. FEC Obfuscates the View of the Role of Wealth in Our Democracy
by: Elisabeth Chaves, August 2011

The Social Security Benefits of Sitting Senators Revisited

Source: Kris Warner, Alan Barber and Dean Baker, Center for Economic and Policy Research, Issue Brief, September 2011

From the summary:
Social Security has just entered its 77th year as an essential source of economic security for millions of Americans in their retirement. However, some politicians…have recently said that Social Security is bankrupt and will not be there for them or their children. This is not an accurate assessment. The latest projections from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) show that Social Security will remain fully solvent through 2038. Even if Congress makes no further changes to the program, Social Security will be able to pay slightly more than 80 percent of scheduled benefits from 2039 on.

CEPR has updated its table (incorporating the newest CBO projections) to show the scheduled Social Security benefit for each current member of the Senate.

Congressional Salaries and Allowances

Source: Ida A. Brudnick, Congressional Research Service, RL30064, June 28, 2011

This report provides basic information on congressional salaries and allowances. First, the report briefly summarizes the current salary of Members of Congress, limits on their outside earned income and honoraria, and applicable health insurance and retirement benefits. Second, the report provides information on allowances available to Representatives and Senators to support them in their official and representational duties as Members. These allowances cover official office expenses, staff, mail, and other goods and services. Third, the report lists the salaries of congressional officers and officials and salary limits for committee staff.