Monday, February 13, 2012

Congressional Charity Earmarks Benefit Wrong Family Members

               by Gary Snyder

           Since members could earmark as long as they could certify to congressional committees that neither they nor their immediate family members stood to benefit from the earmark in question they did so with abandon. This is particularly acute under House rules which only require lawmakers certify only that neither they nor their spouses hold a financial stake in their earmarks, not other members of their immediate families. 

      The Washington Post found that Senator Tim Johnson’s wife was hired as a contract employee to evaluate a program that a Johnson earmarked for $4 million. His wife, Barbara, was paid an annual salary of $80,000. 

      Rep. Ed Pastor (D-AZ) is a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee directed millions to fund the scholarship program for at-risk high school students headed by his daughter in Arizona. The Arizona Republic reported in 2007 that Laura Pastor was not the highest-ranked candidate for the position but had received a salary at the top of the pay scale. The paper also discovered that an equal-opportunity investigator had warned college officials that “we will not be able to totally defend the hiring decision.” 

      Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tex.) has championed millions in earmarks to the University of Houston while her husband, Elwyn C. Lee, has helped to run the school as a senior administrator. He was named the university’s vice president for community relations and institutional access with a salary of $210,491 a year. 

      As a member of the House education committee, Rep. Robert E. Andrews (D-N.J.) has secured six earmarks worth $3.3 million for a scholarship program at Rutgers School of Law in Camden. His wife, Camille Spinello Andrews, is an associate dean. 

      Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) requested earmarks worth more $1.2 million for Weber State University in Ogden. The university hired the congressman’s son Shule Bishop as a lobbyist. He serves as director of government relations. 

      Congressman Daniel Lipinski, helped secure $2.5 million in earmarks since taking office for rail projects that are overseen by the Chicago Transit Authority. The CTA is one of his father’s, William Lipinski, lobbying clients which paid the former congressman $766,330.20 in fees since 2007, according to the transit agency. The Chicago Sun-Times first reported Lipinski’s earmarks for his father’s client in 2010. 

      Rep. Corrine Brown (D-FL.) helped secure $21.9 million in earmarks to six clients of Alcalde & Fay, a lobbying firm that employs her daughter, The Washington Post found. During that time, the clients paid the firm more than $1 million in fees to represent them before Congress, records show. Other earmarks by Brown have been previously reported. She was the sole sponsor of $1.79 million in earmarks to a seventh client, the Community Rehabilitation Center. At the time, her daughter, Shantrel Brown, worked as a lead lobbyist on behalf of the center, the Florida Times-Union reported in 2010. The earmarks were secured to help finance “substance abuse and mental health programs” at the center and to upgrade a Jacksonville, Fla., strip shopping mall where the center is located, records show. The federal lobbying reports say Shantrel Brown sought “federal funding for substance abuse and mental health programs” from 2008 to 2010.

Nonprofit Imperative gathers its information principally from public documents...some of which are directly quoted. Virtually all cited are in some phase of criminal proceedings; some have not been charged, however. Cites in various media: Featured in print, broadcast, and online media outlets, including: Vermont Public Radio, Miami Herald, National Public Radio, Huffington Post, The Sun News, Atlanta Journal Constitution, Wall Street Journal (Profile, News and Photos), FOX2, ABC Spotlight on the News, WWJ Radio, Ethics World, Aspen Philanthropy Newsletter, Harvard Business Review, Current Affairs, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, St. Petersburg Times, B, USA Today Topics, ,, Responsive Philanthropy Magazine, New York Times...and many more • Nonprofits: On the Brink (iUniverse, 2006)
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