Hoover Institution research fellow Peter Schweizer is probably not a favorite on Capitol Hill these days.
His latest book, “Extortion: How Politicians Extract Your Money, Buy Votes, And Line Their Own Pockets,” takes Congress to task for what some might call legal corruption. Here are six examples from Schweizer’s book of how congressmen use campaign donations to enrich themselves, their families and sometimes their staff:
1.) Hiring family members to work — or “work” — for their campaign: Schweizer says 82 members of Congress did this during the 2008 and 2010 election cycles. Among his many examples, he points to former Republican Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who paid six different family members over $300,000, and Democratic Florida Rep. Alcee Hastings, who paid his girlfriend over $600,000.
2.) Having their campaign pay them rent: In 2010, for instance, Virginia Republican Rep. Randy Forbes’ campaign “paid 35,4000 to rent a building” that the congressman owns in Virginia, according to Schweizer.
3.) Rob Andrews is pretty “creative”: Schweizer writes that the New Jersey Democratic congressman might “get the award for creativity and artistic ability: He funneled campaign money to several theaters that would engage his daughter (an actress and singer) to perform.”
“His campaign donated money to the Rock School of Dance, where his daughter trained, and then paid the Prince Music Theater and the Walnut Street Theater, both in Philadelphia, tens of thousands of dollars in donations for the events and ‘expenses,’” Schweizer continues. “His campaign also bought tickets for school groups to attend performances. His campaign committee donated to the Broadway Theater in Pittman, New Jersey, where his daughter preformed. And when she performed at Six Flags Great Adventure Theme Park in New Jersey, his campaign picked up meal expanses.”
4.) Earning interest off campaign loans: Meet Democratic California Rep. Grace Napolitano. When she first ran for office in 1998, Schweizer writes, she “loaned her congressional campaign committee $150,000.” She won. So what about the loan?
“She never asked for the money back,” reports Schweizer. “Instead, she charged her campaign an eye-popping 18 percent interest for almost twenty years, never paying off the loan. She pocketed more than $200,000 in interest payments during the first decade of the loan. In 2006 she dropped the interest rate to 10 percent, but kept paying herself interest.”
As Schweizer further notes, “Napolitano is a longtime member of the House Committee on Natural Resources and the House Transportation Committee, which means that donations from industries in those areas were not only donating to her campaign but also putting money in her pocket.”