There’s been no shortage of news lately about lawmakers in Washington taking ethical short-cuts and bordering on corruption. We start with the usual, and end with the unusual.
There’s always a steady stream of stories about congressional representatives using campaign cash for personal purposes or to benefit their family and friends:
- Democrat Maxine Waters paid her daughter another $200,000 in campaign funds for advertising services in the 2022 election cycle, bringing the total to over $1.2 million in the last 20 years.
- Four House Democrats – including Squad members AOC and Cori Bush – face ethics questions for accepting impermissible gifts, improper solicitation of campaign funds, and spending campaign donations for personal use. Bush and Squad member Ilhan Omar funneled campaign cash to men they later married.
- Democrat Barbara Lee spent $20,000 in campaign funds on chauffeured cars and limousines.
- Texas Democrat Vicente Gonzalez has paid his own company $33,000 in campaign cash for office rent since 2018.
Another familiar unethical practice on Capitol Hill is using public resources for campaign purposes. Ilhan Omar and North Carolina Democrat Jeff Jackson have been using their TikTok accounts for both campaign and official activities
The recurring problem of lawmakers skirting residency requirements came up again, recently. Adam Schiff represents California in the House, is running for U.S. Senate from California, and votes in California. But he has listed his home in Maryland as his “primary residence” several times.
Then there are the usual conflicts of interest, corruption, and revolving door stories involving Congress:
- New Jersey Democrat Senator Bob Menendez and his wife are being investigated for allegations they trade impermissible gifts and services for political favors.
- Arizona Democrat Ruben Gallego is married to a lobbyist for the National Association of Realtors who explicitly “targets House Democrats” on housing issues.
- New York Democrat Sean Patrick Maloney gave a taxpayer-funded job to a family friend who is working full-time elsewhere.
- Indiana Republican Trey Hollingsworth who works on banking regulation publicly thanked Bank of America’s CEO for hiring his top aide.
It’s also distressingly common for some politicians to monetize their office – to cash in. Raphael Warnock excels at that, making half a million dollars in book deals, outside employment, and speaking fees in 2021 after joining the Senate. He voted for a COVID relief bill that sent $75,000 in taxpayer funds to a social justice group he created that is run by the church that still pays him outside income as lead pastor.
Now for the unusual: Gigi Sohn, who ultimately withdrew her nomination for a seat on the Federal Communications Commission, made 12 political contributions to senators running for office while her nomination was pending. When asked if she thought this was poor judgment, she said “no”. A watchdog group sent a letter to the senators who received her donations stating, “Ms. Sohn’s donations to your campaigns and your acceptance of her contributions during the pendency of her confirmation have irrevocably corrupted the decision-making process and made an objective vote on her confirmation impossible.”
Pretty brazen. Ms. Sohn may not be troubled by what she did, but it troubles me and it should trouble you.
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