Steps to stop nepotism good start

By Kevin Wilson: Freedom Newspapers

With potential voters You-Tubing questions for debating Democrats on Monday and Dick Cheney’s short-lived presidency on Saturday, it’s possible you missed an example of good government by the House of Representatives.

On a voice vote Monday, the House passed the Campaign Expenditure Transparency Act. The measure, co-sponsored by Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., and Michael Castle, R-Del., bans spouses from being paid members of campaign staffs. It would not bar other family members from working on a lawmaker’s campaign but would require disclosure.

It’s not a perfect bill, but I and others are happy with a solid first step toward Congressional accountability.

The left-leaning watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington reported about 72 current House members spent $5.1 million in campaign funds to pay relatives (or relatives’ companies or employers) in the past six years. On average, that means those House members gave their families $70,833 to help them keep a $165,200-a-year job.

Do more math, and it could be construed as an artificial 7.1 percent pay raise ($70,833 divided over six years, divided by $165,200) for the family.

When you have the salary, benefits package and overall clout of a member of Congress, it’s reasonable to assume family members would help you keep your job. When a family does so while pocketing campaign contributions, voters lose regardless of election results.

Maybe some of these spouses and family members are qualified, but it’s a slippery slope. The Bible’s book of 1 Corinthians warns the appearance of sin is more than enough motivation for others to sin as well. Translated into Washington language, Schiff said the practice “has shown the potential to foster corruption.”

By scaling back nepotism, we create opportunity. I think of two old college friends — one a member of the College Republicans, the other the College Democrats. Both ended up working in a video rental store early on.

I’m not saying that’s a bad job, but I doubt either one would rather do that than make a similar salary helping a candidate whose ideology matched theirs.

Even if the ideologies don’t exactly match, that’s fine. Go to a youth sporting event and you might find the parents who think their 11-year-old is a future first-round draft pick. That “family can do no wrong” attitude usually manifests itself in other areas, and it creates a candidate surrounded by yes-men, unwilling to shift on issues important to constituents.

A necessary voice of change is more likely to come from a passionate staff member than somebody who shares blood and holiday meals with the candidate.

I’m fairly certain we’ll never completely eliminate nepotism from Washington. George W. Bush’s political career was undoubtedly helped by his father being president, his grandfather being a senator and his brother being a governor.

Should Hillary Clinton win the 2008 election, conventional wisdom says Bill Clinton will be granted at least an ambassadorship — whether that would gain or cost her votes is anyone’s guess.

Still, any step our government can take to eliminate yes-men and spread government involvement outward means better representation and better democracy. That’s a good step in my book, and it’s my hope the Senate agrees and follows the example set by the House of Representatives.