Taking on DC’s royalty: Ethics reform for a new generation

Fast cars, luxury yachts, international five-star resorts, top-shelf liquor and fine china from Bloomingdale’s — this sounds like a rap song, but this is the life of some members of Congress.

For example, Rep. Rob Andrews (D-NJ) was exposed in a 60 Minutes investigation for spending leadership PAC money on the items listed above. And, my guess: he isn’t alone.

We, the taxpayers, shouldn’t accept this behavior; we must fight it. I will do my part in ending this corruption by championing the following reforms when elected to Congress:

Ban immediate family members from registering as lobbyists.

Allowing an immediate family member to lobby creates a huge conflict of interest in Congress. This sort of nepotism is more common than you would expect.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has had three sons and a son-in-law register as lobbyists. Sen. Roy Blunt’s (R-MO) wife and other family members are also registered lobbyists. Altogether, 100 family members related to 78 different Congressmen have been registered lobbyists — connected to lobbying contracts worth nearly $2 billion.

Making money off taxpayers should not be a family business — or a business at all. Banning family members from becoming lobbyists would help ensure purer motives from our elected officials.

Ban the collection of interest from a loan to a campaign.

Last year, Congresswoman Grace Napolitano (D-CA) got caught paying herself 18 percent interest from a $150,000 loan she gave to her own campaign for a period of 20 years. She profited hundreds of thousands of dollars from campaign donations to pad her own personal income.

While most candidates and congressmen aren’t taking 18 percent, many of them pay interest to themselves higher than the normal rate. It’s time to ban the collection of interest from a candidate’s loan to his or her political campaign.

Make Congressmen report donations promptly.

When lobbyists need to pass certain bills, they donate to the Congressmen they need to target. And, sometimes it works the other way around. Congressmen use pieces of legislation to extort money from special interest groups when their bills come to a vote.