The Fundamental Roadblock To Any Kind Of Campaign Finance Reform

February 24th, 2008at 05:00pm Posted by Eli

It has to be passed by incumbents.

Under long-standing congressional ethics rules, corporations, unions and other large organizations cannot directly pay senators stipends. But their contributions to senators’ election campaigns can be paid without limit to the children, spouses, in-laws and other relatives of the lawmakers, in a practice that has aroused controversy but is fully legal.

Since 2000, at least 20 members of the Senate dipped into their campaign contributions and wrote more than half a million dollars in checks to their own relatives, typically as payment for fundraising and other campaign work, according to a new report by the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), for example, paid her son Douglas $320,409.17 in campaign donations through his company Douglas Boxer and Associates from 2001 to 2006, CREW found. Douglas Boxer is a lawyer and a 10-year veteran of her political team, a Boxer spokesman said.

Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) paid his daughter-in-law Danielle Enzi $306,718.18 from his campaign accounts over the same period, according to the report. She was a fundraiser before she married into the Enzi family, an Enzi spokesman said. Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) paid his daughter Amy Towles $138,933.37 over six years, CREW found. Bunning’s office said it was for campaign accounting.

“It is an area that’s ripe for abuse, for someone who wants to turn campaign funds into personal use,” said Craig Holman, a lobbyist for the nonprofit group Public Citizen. Although most lawmakers do not abuse the practice, he said, “those campaign funds always come from special interests, and those special interests are always looking for something in return.”

(…)

Senators took up the issue before passing the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act on Jan. 18, 2007. The law tightened rules on accepting meals, private plane rides and other perks from lobbyists. But an amendment to ban the practice of paying relatives for their campaign work was rejected 54 to 41, with Boxer voting “present.”

Even senators with no relatives listed in the CREW report criticized the measure, offered by Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), as overly harsh. “I see no evidence of anything improper in this body,” said Senate Rules and Administration Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) during the floor debate.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said: “I have never had a relative on my campaign payroll. I just don’t see why we would want to get into the issue. . . . As long as it is a fully disclosed expense, which it would be through campaign finance reports and campaign disclosures, then the voters can judge whether it is appropriate.”

Everything’s fine… Move along… Nothing to see here…

(h/t dakine)

Entry Filed under: Corruption/Cronyism,Democrats,Elections,Politics,Republicans,Wankers


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