The buzz this week in the news was all about corruption. OK, it was about one very specific type of corruption – the President paying women to not go public with allegations of affairs they say happened 12 years ago. But this is Washington, DC, sex scandals are only the tip of the corruption iceberg. Only, unlike anything involving Donald Trump, most of them are perfectly legal and the media has little to no interest in reporting on them.
I don’t know what Trump did 12 years ago, he wasn’t President at the time so I don’t care. I also don’t care if he paid women to keep quiet either because he’d had affairs with them or because it was easier just to throw some money around to make them go away and avoid the hassle. (I covered the reasons why in Thursday’s column here.) I’m not married to him, nor am I responsible for his choices or for those making the allegations.
What I don’t like is when people whose salaries we’re all paying use more of our tax dollars to pay off people they’ve harassed and keep that quiet.
There have been more than 260 settlements costing more than $17 million, paid for by you and me, so our elected Members for Congress can avoid being held responsible for things they’re now clutching their pearls over the President having done with his own money.
But as sleazy as that is, there’s something worse, something much more corrupt happening every election cycle. And, since Congress is the body that sets the rules, it’s perfectly legal.
Two reports this week showed how Members of Congress, safe Members who have had no risk of losing their reelection bids, shoveled money to members of their families for “work” they do for their campaigns.
There really aren’t that many Congressional seats that are competitive. Those that are, the ones that flip parties occasionally, get all the media attention and the bulk of the money. But they don’t get all the money.
People who face no real challenge on Election Day still raise a lot of money too. Some of it is for commercials to remind people to vote, some is passed around to other campaigns to raise the stature and influence of the Member, and some is used to pay staffers for a campaign that is, for all intents and purposes, unnecessary and non-existent.
California Democrat Maxine Waters won her first term in Congress in 1990 with 79 percent of the vote. Her toughest reelection bid came in 2012 when she squeaked by with 71 percent. Yet every two years she raises a campaign war chest for that foregone conclusion.
With the millions of dollars she’s raised, Waters has paid her own daughter, Karen, more than $800,000 since 2004 to run a statewide mail campaign promoting other Democrats. This past election, where Waters took 75.8 percent of the vote, was a good year for Karen too. According to the Washington Free Beacon, “Karen is now owed $183,022.15 on top of the $108,000 she has already collected during the midterms.” Nice pay for essentially licking stamps.
Missouri Democrat William Lacy Clay Jr. was first elected in 2000 with a scant 75 percent of the vote. His closest reelection bid was in 2002 when he only managed 70 percent.
With his reelection a mere formality, he won this year with 80.1 percent, Clay still managed to slide a substantial chunk of his campaign cash to his sister. Michelle Clay is a lawyer who lives in Silver Spring, Maryland, a full 809 miles from Congressman Clay’s district. The Free Beacon reported, “From Jan. 4 until Oct. 31, 2018, Rep. Clay Jr. disbursed numerous payments ranging from $500 to $10,000 and totaling $198,500 to his sister's firm.”
I wrote about a similar scam last year perpetrated by retiring Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), who paid his wife almost $400,000 between 2010 and then. That’s a nice nest egg to add to a Congressional pension, isn’t it?
These Members of Congress are not unique, and it’s not a scam limited to one party, and most disturbingly, it’s not even a crime. When you set the rules, the rules are always in your favor.
So spare me the outrage over Donald Trump using his own money however he saw fit. At least it was his money.
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