Just this weekend we looked at how impressively profitable it is to have a “job” as Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s husband. She’s not the only one playing the nepotism game, of course. Congresswoman Maxine Waters has been employing her daughter in a similar fashion for years. The problem in these situations is that it’s not technically illegal to do this. But is that about to change? Two House Republicans have introduced a bill that would bar members of Congress from employing their spouses. In a clear sign of precisely who is being called out for this practice, they named the Bill after Omar herself. (Daily Caller)
Two House Republicans introduced a bill Friday to prevent members of Congress from using campaign funds to pay their spouses, a measure they named after Rep. Ilhan Omar.
Wisconsin Reps. Tom Tiffany and Mike Gallagher introduced the Oversight for Members And Relatives Act, or the OMAR Act, in response to reports that Omar’s campaign paid $2.8 million to a consulting firm owned by her husband, a political consultant named Tim Mynett.
The payments accounted for 70% of the Minnesota Democrat’s campaign spending, according to Fox News report that the Republicans cited.
Today, I introduced the Oversight for Members And Relatives (OMAR) Act with @RepGallagher.
For too long, lawmakers of both parties have engaged in the ethically dubious practice of pocketing campaign funds by hiring spouses and laundering the money as campaign related expenses.
— Rep. Tom Tiffany (@RepTiffany) February 5, 2021
“For too long, lawmakers of both political parties have engaged in the ethically dubious practice of pocketing campaign funds by ‘hiring’ their spouses and laundering the money as campaign-related expenses.”
We’re already hearing some grumbling about this bill not being a serious attempt at legislation, but Democrats will be in a tricky position if they want to oppose it or even refuse to act on it. That’s because California Democrat Adam Schiff introduced a very similar bill in 2007 which passed in the House with broad, bipartisan support. Schiff’s bill only applied to hiring spouses to work directly as campaign workers, but the wording was pretty much the same. Both Schiff and Speaker Nancy Pelosi praised the bill as an important measure in providing transparency and preventing the “misuse” of campaign funds.
In what could be interpreted as a blow to Maxine Waters, Schiff said at the time that he wished the rule could apply to all family members, but banning the employment of spouses was “a good start.” Unfortunately, the measure didn’t make it out of the Senate.
Some may argue that the bill is problematic because nepotism, while generally frowned upon, isn’t usually considered to be illegal in the private sector. If it were, quite a few of Donald Trump’s family members would find themselves unemployed. But we’re talking about campaign donations here, and that’s one category of money that’s far more tightly regulated. Campaign donations are not only limited in terms of how much can be accepted but how and where the money can be spent. Politicians have regularly been found to have spent campaign money on personal expenses and some have even gone to jail for it.
Given the difficulty in separating the finances of married couples in most cases, hiring your spouse’s consulting firm and paying them with campaign donations certainly sounds like the same thing. But there will be other questions raised about this proposed legislation. What about cases where the candidate is living with their partner but not married? Would the rule apply to them as well? As you can probably imagine, this path could become tricky rather quickly.
We may have to settle for a situation where investigative journalists uncover these types of cozy deals and stick to a theory of “name them and shame them.” That may have worked in the case of Omar, though it took a few years of shaming before she finally relented and cut her husband loose. Also, there’s no guarantee that this bill will ever come up for a vote in the first place. Now that it’s a pair of Republicans proposing the measure, Nancy Pelosi may forget about what a good idea she thought it was in 2007.