August 15, 2022

Republican members of Congress want to prevent their colleagues from putting family members on the campaign payroll after several prominent Democratic lawmakers have been called out over the practice.

The Family Integrity to Reform Elections (FIRE) Act, to be introduced by Rep. Pat Fallon (R-Texas) on Monday, would bar any candidate running for federal office from compensating immediate family members for campaign services.

“Maxine Waters [paid] $1.1 million to her daughter from campaign funds,” Fallon told The Post in a statement. “Ilhan Omar, $2.9 million to her husband from campaign funds. James Clyburn, over $200,000 to multiple family members from his campaign.”

Rep. Pat Fallon will introduce the Family Integrity to Reform Elections Act.
Jason Andrew/The New York Times via AP

“The numbers speak for themselves,” Fallon added. “Americans are sick of politicians abusing their voters’ hard-earned money. This modern-day spoils system must end. My bill shines light on shady campaign finance practices while punishing those who take advantage of these funds to enrich their families.”

It is currently legal for lawmakers to employ family members to work on campaigns. However, Federal Election Commission regulations prohibit paying candidate relatives a salary unless they are “providing bona fide services to the campaign” and the salary represents “fair market value of the services provided.”

The legislation – first reviewed by The Post – would extend the ban to any political committee “established, maintained or controlled by a candidate or an individual holding Federal office” – blocking any current lawmaker from compensating a family member for working on their campaign.

Rep. Maxine Waters.
Rep. Maxine Waters shelled out $24,000 in campaign funds to her daughter Karen in the first quarter of this year.
Damian Dovarganes/AP
Karen Waters.
Karen Waters was paid by the campaign committee “Citizens for Waters” for “slate mailer management” fees. 
Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

Fallon’s bill would also require campaigns to report any payments made to a candidate’s immediate family members.

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Relatives who fall under the proposed ban would include spouses, parents, siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, and domestic partners as well as the spouses of campaign committee members. 

If the bill becomes law, any candidate who violates the ban would face a fine of either $100,000 for each violation or twice the amount paid to the family members — whichever is greater — and/or imprisonment for up to two years. The campaign committee would not be permitted to reimburse the candidate for any of the penalties. 

Congresswoman Ilhan Omar posing with her husband Tim Mynett.
Rep. Ilhan Omar reportedly paid $2.9 million to her husband from campaign funds.
Instagram/@ilhanmn
Dr. Jennifer Clyburn Reed with father, Democratic Rep. James Clyburn.
Rep. James Clyburn (far right, seen next to his daughter) paid over $200,000 to multiple family members from his campaign.
Twitter/@SenatorCarper

The legislation – co-sponsored by Reps. Ronny Jackson (R-Texas), Byron Donalds (R-Fla.), Pete Sessions (R-Texas), Jake Ellzey (R-Texas), Randy Weber (R-Texas), Brian Babin (R-Texas), Andrew Garbarino (R-NY), Kat Cammack (R-Fla.) and Troy Nehls (R-Texas) –  faces a steep climb in Congress as both Democratic and Republican candidates have been known to hire immediate family members and pay them for their services. 

In 2020, Opensecrets found that more than a dozen current members of Congress – five Republicans and nine Democrats – were paying at least $16,000 in wages to family members. 

Waters has long dwarfed her colleagues in this regard, shelling out $24,000 in campaign funds to her daughter Karen in the first quarter of this year alone, per records from the Federal Election Commission. 

The records indicate Waters’ daughter was paid by the campaign committee “Citizens for Waters” for “slate mailer management” fees. 

The payments mirrored similar outlays in 2021 – during which the younger Waters was paid $81,650 – and the last election cycle, during which she was paid around $240,000. 

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“Campaign funds should never under any circumstances be used to enrich a candidate or their family. Voters deserve to feel confident that their public officials are running to represent them, not line their own pockets,” Garbarino told The Post in a statement.

“This legislation will shine a light on campaign finance and hold candidates for public office to a higher standard on par with the public trust they wield.”