House Bans Spouse Campaign Pay

The House has banned Congressmen from using campaign funds to pay their spouses.

In the latest ripple of an ethics spat gripping Congress, the House yesterday passed a bipartisan bill that bans lawmakers from paying their spouses for campaign work. The measure, passed on a voice vote, was sponsored by Reps. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) and Michael N. Castle (R-Del.). It would not bar other family members from working on a lawmaker’s campaign but would require disclosure.

The vote follows a study released last month by the liberal-leaning watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington that found that nearly 100 chairmen and ranking minority members of House committees used their roles to benefit their families, including employing spouses and other kin for campaign or consulting work.

Schiff originally conceived of the measure as an amendment to an ethics bill passed in May, then decided to offer it separately. “Specifically I was concerned about cases where a spouse was being paid on a commission basis,” he said, describing an arrangement made and later discontinued by Rep. John T. Doolittle (R-Calif.), who paid his wife, Julie, a portion of the donations she brought in.

By making such agreements, Schiff said: “You’re essentially telling a donor, ‘Part of what you give to my campaign, you give to me.’ That’s inherently a conflict.”

The House could do this as part of its internal rules. Instead, it is doing it via legislation, which will require getting through the Senate.

Still, this seems like a no brainer. It’s questionable enough when candidates use campaign funds to pay for personal expenses; shuffling money contributed by interest groups into a joint bank account has the appearance of bribery. It’s a sign of how quickly we’ve moved on this issue, though, that it was only a little more than a decade ago we stopped allowing lawmakers to retire and simply pocket the entirety of their campaign war chests.

via Taegan Goddard

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2008, Congress, , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. markm says:

    “Still, this seems like a no brainer.”

    That was my exact thoughts on the matter…but watching the news last night, “people in the know” said it will not pass the senate. Hmmph!.

  2. yetanotherjohn says:

    One of the problems here is you are essentially legislating morality. What should be a no brainer seems to require a law to make this happen. So acknowledging that an ethics law won’t change the underlying morals of the people involved, lets think about how this is likely to play out.

    Candidates spouses resign from campaigns en-mass. No problem so far. Those that were really providing a value will either provide it to other campaigns or as a volunteer.

    Candidates spouses form consulting firms that provide consultations on how to pitch issues to congress critters. Not lobbying, but more ‘how to more effectively employ your first amendment rights to petition the government for a redress of grievances’. What could be more American than that? Depending on the exchange rate for the congress critter, the spouses charge from $100 to $10,000 per hour for their consultancy. Businesses now get to write off the ‘consulting fee’ as a business fee (as opposed to the straight political donation). Every contributor who ‘wants something’ would be encouraged to hire the congress critters spouse consulting firm to make sure that they can effectively present their issue.

    And the problem continues dressed in a different set of clothes.