16 Members of Congress Funneled Millions to Their Relatives' Employers, Study Finds

In his New York Times bestselling book, Throw Them All Out, Breitbart editor Peter Schweizer revealed how members of Congress enrich themselves and their relatives using earmarks and insider information.  Now, the Washington Post, following in Schweizer’s footsteps, has conducted a study that found 16 members of Congress have used their power of the purse to benefit companies, colleges, and community groups tied to their relatives.

Image by Washington Post

According to the study, the bipartisan “dirty 16” deny that their actions were meant to directly benefit themselves or their spouses, parents, or children.  Instead, they claim, they were merely helping organizations and institutions in their congressional districts that just so happen to be connected to their relatives.

But as the investigation reveals, hiring the relative of a member of Congress can bring big bucks for employers.  Among those cited in the Washington Post report were the following:

  • Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX): obtained $5.3 million and sought $16.5 million more for the University of Houston where her husband has been employed since 1978 and has seen his salary double since 1994 (a year before Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee was elected) to $210,491.  Rep. Lee’s staff ignored repeated requests for comment.

  • Sen. Tim Johsnon (D-SD): secured $4 million to a Pentagon education program where his wife drew an $80,000 salary and was previously employed by a consulting firm that received a $1 million contract to monitor the program.  Senator Johnson’s wife said she asked the Senate Select Committee on Ethics to make sure she wasn’t “crossing any lines” and that “they said it didn’t pose any conflict.”
  • Rep. Ed Pastor (D-AZ): helped funnel $4 million in earmarks to an education program of which his daughter Laura is the director.  “The perception is that you helped your daughter, but if you evaluate the kids who benefited from this, it was worth doing,” said Rep. Pastor.
  • Rep. Robert E. Andrews (D-NJ): landed $3.4 million in earmarks for a scholarship program at Rutgers School of Law where his wife Camille Spinello Andrews is an associate dean of the law school.  Camille Spinello Andrews did not return calls or emails for comment, but her husband said he was proud of the earmarks.  “These earmarks put money into a scholarship program that required students to provide free legal services to the poorest people in a very poor city.”
  • Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT): obtained $1.25 million in earmarks for Weber State University in Ogden who then hired his son Shule Bishop as a lobbyist.  “There is no connection,” Rep. Bishop said.
  • Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-IL): scored $2.5 million in earmarks  for the Chicago Transit Authority, a lobbying client of his father’s (who was also a former congressman) that has paid $766,330.20 in fees since 2007.  “His father does not lobby him on behalf of his clients on transportation or any other issues,” said Rep. Lipinksi’s spokesperson Nathaniel Zimer.  “In these, as in other areas, Congressman Lipinski is focused on doing what is best for his constituents.”
  • Rep. Corrine Brown (D-FL): helped land $21.9 million in earmarks for clients of a lobbying firm where her daughter works.  The lobbying firm, Alcalde & Fay, received $1 million in fees from the clients who benefited from the earmarks.  Rep. Corrine Brown declined interviews or comment.

The investigation of all 535 members of Congress compared thousands of public records to each Members’ financial disclosure forms.