Rep. Richard Pombo ☼ did it with his wife and his brother. In his 2004 presidential campaign, Sen. Joseph Lieberman ☼ did it with his children. Former Majority Leader Tom DeLay did it with his wife and daughter. All have hired relatives to work on their campaigns, paying them salaries out of special interest contributions. Our system of campaign finance is often called “legalized bribery,” in which special interests donate tens of thousands of dollars to a member’s campaign committee in the hopes of advancing their own issues. Some members of Congress, by hiring their spouses, in effect use their campaign treasury to supplement their own bank accounts. The practice is legal, disclosed in obscure corners of campaign finance reports, and rarely mentioned by those who cover campaigns. And now citizen journalists can investigate it!
I’m proud to announce that the Sunlight Foundation is launching a new distributed research and reporting project that will enable citizen journalists to find out how many members of the House of Representatives have their spouses on the payroll. Our simple, user-friendly six step tool (developed by our ultra-cool Sunlight Labs division) lets users investigate and record their results in just three minutes.
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