A Washington Post investigation finds that 16 members of Congress have sent tax dollars, sometimes in the millions, to companies or other organizations with links to their family trees. Through direct funding or earmarking, these lawmakers have boosted the budgets of Pentagon programs, environmental groups, schools, and other places where their spouses, children, or parents have been employed, sat on the board, or worked as lobbyists. In interviews, the lawmakers insist the actions were meant to assist organizations that, in turn, help residents of their districts. Indeed, congressional committees have found that such practices are fine as long as the money doesn't directly or solely benefit the lawmakers' relatives.
But there's no arguing that Congress has fairly loose ethical standards and conflict-of-interest rules, especially compared to the executive branch, which one member of a watchdog group calls "complete hypocrisy." Today's Post investigation follows a similar revelation yesterday that lawmakers used earmarks to benefit their own properties. Despite last year's declared moratorium on earmarks, lawmakers continue to attempt to insert them into bills, the Post notes. And, while senators must certify that none of their immediate family will benefit from earmarks, House lawmakers must only certify that neither they nor their spouses will benefit. Click for the full article, which includes a detailed look at some of the cases. (Read more earmarks stories.)