Tuesday, June 19, 2007

It's Legal, But Is It Right? Part I

There are plenty of things that are not against the law but general public opinion is that they are slimy things to do. There are tons of things that are not against the law that some people think are slimy but others don’t. All depends.

Take the new report out from CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington) about Congressional representatives hiring relatives to work on their campaigns or PACS, or working with lobbyist relatives. It is reported on in The Politico, "Congressional relatives on the campaign trail, lobbying” by Patrick O'Connor

If you want to read the full report it is here, but be forewarned – it is something like 160 pages long.

For your reading pleasure I went through and checked for Pennsylvania congressional representatives. You will be pleased to know that, shockingly enough, representatives from the Philly area aren’t on the list. Which either means they're squeaky clean or smart enough to dodge the system well enough not to get noticed. Take your pick. [blogger's note: looking Italian has left the following comment which clarifies matters. My apologies for not reading the executive summary closely enough to note this myself: Door #3 for the Philly-area delegation: Those who don't chair, or who aren't ranking members, of any committees or subcommittees. They were excluded from the CREW evaluation.}

The three Pennsylvania folks mentioned are Paul Kanjorski (D-11), John Murtha (D-12), and Bill Shuster (R-09). As for the specifics:

Paul Kanjorski and his brother own K&K Real Estate which has charged his campaign $12,000 in rent for each of the past three elections cycles; his PAC paid his real estate company $4,500 in rent. His nephew was paid a salary for being his campaign manager. His sister-in-law is the treasurer of his PAC. Another nephew has received $30,000 in consulting fees. Between 1999 and 2002 two companies owned in part by four nephews and his daughter received $9.4 million in earmarks.

Murtha’s brother was a registered lobbyist. The brother was hired by a lobbying firm run by someone who worked for Rep. Murtha for 27 years. The brother lobbied a committee that Rep. Murtha chairs on behalf of contractors in that area. Seven of these contractors received a combined total of $2.8 million in earmarks.

Shuster’s father, a former congressman himself, and his brother are registered lobbyists. They specialize in areas affected by committees the congressman serves on. To be fair the father also specialized in those areas when he was in office himself.

A few observations: Rep. Kanjorski has a lot of nephews. On the matter of rent, I notice the amount paid in rent stayed the same. If it went up each campaign cycle I would be more concerned. Generally I’ve noticed that elected officials and campaign offices tend to be in physical locations owned by people friendly or related to them. On the matter of family serving as campaign managers or staff, I can think of two or three other elected officials in the area who have done the same. I wonder about the ever vague “consulting” jobs.

The lobbying and earmark items concern me much more. Companies owned, even in part, by relatives of elected officials should not really be receiving earmarks from the government. Lobbyists should not be lobbying relatives or elected officials on the same committees their relatives are on.

Those are the spots where I start to draw the lines. You can come to your own conclusions.


Tim said...

It's one step removed, but another shady area has to do with relatives of politicians being hired to do campaign work by other allied politicians. Often there seems to be some kind of tit-for-tat: a PAC donation from campaign A to campaign B, in exchange for which campaign B hires the relative of politician A to do some campaign work. PAC money gets shuffled around so much in this way that unless you're tracking it carefully, it's hard to tell exactly what the deal may be.

Anonymous said...

Door #3 for the Philly-area delegation: Those who don't chair, or who aren't ranking members, of any committees or subcommittees. They were excluded from the CREW evaluation.

AboveAvgJane said...

Tim, thanks! Keeping track of all this is next to impossible!

LI, excellent point. I did not read thoroughly enough. I've updated the blog entry with your information.

Gort said...

Thanks for pointing this out. I ran with the Kanjo stuff.

AboveAvgJane said...

Gort, I went over and wrote a long response to a comment on your post. It's a good post.