Political watchdog group CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington) has released a report detailing how members of the House of Representatives use their positions to financially benefit their families. In its report, entitled Family Affair, CREW found that 248 House members had “used their positions to financially benefit themselves or family members.” Among those are at least 18 representatives from Florida.
According to the report, Congresswoman Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, earmarked hundreds of thousands of dollars for one of her daughter’s clients. Shantrel Brown-Fields (Brown’s daughter) is a partner at lobbying firm Alcalde & Fay, and lobbies on transportation and infrastructure issues. Her clients include the Community Rehabilitation Center of Jacksonville, Fl, for which Brown has earmarked a total of $939,000 since 2008.
Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, was also included on the list. During the 2008 and 2010 election cycles, Buchanan’s campaign committee, Vern Buchanan for Congress, paid his sister-in-law a salary and also paid two of Buchanan’s own companies.
Buchanan’s sister-in-law, Yvonne Buchanan, was paid $36,497 by the Congressman’s campaign committee during the 2008 election cycle and $80,492 in salary during the 2010 election cycle.
During the 2008 election cycle, Buchanan’s campaign committee paid Jamatt Properties (a company presided over by Buchanan) $29,137 for office rent, parking, and storage. During the 2010 election cycle, Buchanan’s campaign committee paid Jamatt Properties $45,751 for storage, rent, and postage.
During the 2008 election cycle, Rep. Buchanan’s campaign committee paid Auto Central Services (another company that lists Buchanan as its President) $6,159 for flights, beverages, and office supplies. During the 2010 election cycle, Buchanan’s campaign committee paid Auto Central Services $339 for office supplies.
Twelve-term member of Congress Cliff Stearns, R-Ocala, was also on the list. According to CREW’s report, Stearns’ campaign committee paid $10,287 in “food, travel, equipment, purchases, gifts, office supplies, parking, fuel and vehicle rental expenses” during the 2008 election cycle to Rep. Stearns himself and $2,005 in “food, travel, mileage and Christmas card expenses,” during the 2010 election cycle, also to Stearns. That committee also paid Stearns’ wife more than $2,000 in “fax expenses, flowers and Christmas cards” during the 2008 and 2010 election cycles. Organizations associated with his wife also benefitted from Stearns’ campaign committee, netting more than $860,000 in earmark requests during the 2008 and 2010 election cycles.
“This report shows lawmakers still haven’t learned it is wrong to trade on their positions as elected leaders to benefit themselves and their families,” said CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan, in a press release. “Conduct like this reinforces the widely held view that members of Congress are more interested in enriching themselves than in public service. Family Affair highlights these practices.”