The Post analysis shows that the interests of lawmakers and their relatives have overlapped to varying degrees on bills before Congress. In the past six years, for example, 36 congressional relatives — including spouses, children, siblings, parents and in-laws — have been paid to influence 250 bills passing through their family members’ congressional committees or sponsored by the members.
All of this is legal under the rules Congress has written for itself.
That lawmakers have relatives working as lobbyists has been widely reported over the years. Lawmakers have consistently said their relatives don’t lobby them directly. The 2007 overhaul prohibited spouses from direct lobbying but gave other relatives more leeway.
For the first time since the changes, however, The Post examination reveals the extent to which relatives are still paid to work on issues before their family members.
“It’s a technique of throwing money at the feet of the congressman who can influence my business,” said Craig Holman, a campaign finance and government ethics lobbyist for Public Citizen.
The family ties are another example of the intersection of lawmakers’ public and private interests, which The Post has been documenting in a year-long series. Earlier articles revealed lawmakers who secured earmarks for projects near properties they own, traded in stocks of companies lobbying on bills before them and pushed legislation affecting industries in which they had financial interests.
To examine lobbying, the newspaper mined a range of public documents, including records of lawmakers’ family connections compiled by Legistorm.com, a nonpartisan Web site that tracks congressional disclosures. The Post culled thousands of quarterly lobbyist disclosure reports and tracked legislation through the House and Senate to identify instances in which relatives were paid to lobby on matters that came before their congressional relatives.
In the mid-2000s, the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal helped pressure lawmakers to pass ethics revisions. The 2007 Honest Leadership and Open Government Act imposed disclosure rules on earmarks, banned gifts from lobbyists and, for the first time, addressed the behavior of lobbyists related to lawmakers.
The changes restrict — but do not prohibit — relatives of members from lobbying Congress. In the House, the overhaul does prohibit people from lobbying their lawmaker spouses or their offices. In the Senate, the rules went further and prohibited spouses and all immediate family members from being paid to lobby anyone in the Senate.