A lengthy and rather damning new report released by the Washington Post has revealed that 73 members of Congress have in some capacity backed legislation that stands to benefit businesses or industries in which either they or their relatives are invested. The analysis stems from an investigation by the Post of financial disclosure and public records for all 535 members of both congressional chambers.
Ethic rules drafted by Congress have permitted the practice, allowing legislators to sponsor or co-sponsor bills that benefit themselves or family members except when they are the sole beneficiaries. Between 2007 and 2011, lawyers for the House and Senate ethics committees have dispatched 2,800 written opinions to lawmakers, issued 6,500 emails, and offered advice over the phone some 40,000 times.
Currently, congressional ethics committees rarely discipline their own, instead offering advice and opinions that typically grant support and justification to members who pursue legislation that overlaps with their personal financial interests. And while Congress has forced executive branch officials to plunder themselves of financial interests that may pose ethical questions, lawmakers have conveniently omitted themselves from the injunction.
Kicking off the report, the Post provided a couple glaring examples of congressional members endowing themselves or their relatives with financial kickbacks or other special benefits:
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