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March 21, 2006
Business As Usual Is No Excuse

After writing about the interesting manner in which political contributors put money into John Doolittle's family bank account on Sunday, Eric Hogue also questioned the practice on his radio show yesterday. SactoDan noted the exchange between Rep. Richard Pombo and Hogue, as well as a call-in from California state senator Dave Cox -- both of whom (unsurprisingly) defended Doolittle and the practice of paying political spouses commissions on fundraising. SactoDan reports:

11th district US Congressman Richard Pombo of Tracy, interviewed on the Eric Hogue Show on KTKZ Radio (1380AM, 105.5 FM) this morning was asked about the practice. Pombo's wife is involved in his campaign. Pombo confirmed that his wife has received a salary, and at times has received commissions based on the amounts raised. He said if she wasn't doing it, he'd have to hire some other fundraising organization to do it, or if she worked somewhere else, there would be questions or criticisms about that.

Hogue asks the question, should wives or immediate family members be allowed to work for pay or commissions on a campaign, or is it a conflict of interest?

State Senator Dave Cox weighs in (called into the show): 10% to 15% commission is standard fare for fundraising commission, and if a spouse has a business that raises funds she should be entitled to compensation.

All this proves is that political officeholders have trouble staying in touch with reality. This isn't a difficult concept: a system which allows political contributors to stick cash into a politician's personal bank account creates at least the appearance of corruption and probably the reality of it as well. We don't send people to Congress or to the state houses so that their spouses can collect 15% of all cash contributions for the community-property account. With electoral campaigns costing millions of dollars, that adds up to a lot of money pouring into the hands of political candidates for their personal aggrandizement.

The need for this brokerage is laughable on its face. Political contributors do not need to access a consultant to give money to John Doolittle's campaigns. They know where to find him whether his wife takes the check or not. Ending these consultancy services from family members will not stop the flow of lobbying money to Doolittle, Pombo, or anyone else -- but it will stop the lobbyists from having a direct channel to the family bank account.

We don't elect legislators so that they can get rich by pulling 15% off the top of all their campaign contributions. For a position that pays around $160,000 a year plus travel and per diem, the salary should be enough; it's three or four times what an average family makes in the US. Staffers come with the position, and no one cares if family members get those salaried jobs as long as they do the work. But allowing politicians to pocket a percentage of these hefty campaign funds for their own personal use while supposedly representing the people should not be acceptable to American voters, and if politicians can't understand that, then we need to replace them as soon as possible.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 21, 2006 7:15 AM

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