By Matt Kelley and Peter Eisler
Members of Congress and their staffs are barred from using their positions for personal profit. But their spouses and other relatives can — and often do — cash in when lawmakers spend taxpayer dollars.
Lobbying groups employed 30 family members last year to influence spending bills that their relatives with ties to the House and Senate appropriations committees oversaw or helped write, a USA TODAY investigation found. Combined, they generated millions of dollars in fees for themselves or their firms.
The connections are so pervasive that, in 2005 alone, appropriations bills contained about $750 million for projects championed by lobbyists whose relatives were involved in writing the spending bills.
"It smells bad; it is bad," Mickey Edwards, a Princeton University lecturer, said when told of the newspaper's findings. "If it is not already completely outlawed, it should be." Edwards served on the House Appropriations Committee during his 16 years as a Republican congressman from Oklahoma.
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