With a broader ethics overhaul stalled for the time being, Democrats this week pushed through a narrower measure prohibiting lawmakers’ spouses from working as paid campaign staff.
“There have been too many reports of corruption and abuse in Congress over the last few years, and the passage of this bill with bipartisan support marks an important step forward in restoring the public’s confidence that elected officials are working in the public’s interest and not their own,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the bill’s sponsor, said. “Candidates run for federal office to serve the public, not to financially profit from the campaign.”
The House passed the Campaign Expenditure Transparency Act by a voice vote on Monday. In addition to banning fundraising and consulting work by spouses, the measure, if adopted, would require federal campaigns to disclose payments made to all immediate family members. According to language in the House version, candidates’ spouses may still be reimbursed for travel expenses.
Passage of the House bill comes after months of debate over allegations that some politicians and their family members may be getting rich off of their campaigns. Federal investigators recently raided the fundraising offices of Rep. John Doolittle’s (R-Calif.) wife, Julie, allegedly in connection to the lawmaker’s dealings with now-incarcerated former lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
Julie Doolittle has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for her husband’s re-election bids. According to a Sunlight Foundation study, at least 19 lawmakers’ spouses were on their campaign payrolls in the previous cycle.
One of the bill’s 18 co-sponsors admitted the measure was far from perfect.
“I would prefer if HR 2630 went beyond spouses and included a ban to keep all family members off campaign payrolls but this bill will move us in the right direction to eliminate abuse and also minimize the perception of abuse,” Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.) said in a statement.
While the bill passed easily in the House, its chances in the Senate are less certain. A senior Senate Democratic aide said late Monday that passage of a similar Senate version is unlikely, pointing to a supposed anonymous hold by a unknown Republican on a bill requiring Senators to file campaign financial records electronically.