Blog — Campaign Finance Reform

June 30, 2014

Coalition Expresses Strong Support for Bill Limiting Self-Dealing in Congress

By Susannah Savage and Daniel Schuman

Partying CongressmanToday a coalition of organizations devoted to government accountability expressed strong support for the Making Every Representative’s Integrity Transparent Act of 2014 (MERIT Act), legislation introduced in the House of Representatives last Thursday by Representative Jackie Speier (D-CA).

In a letter to Rep. Speier, eleven nonpartisan organizations and a campaign finance expert described the MERIT Act as a "smart, common-sense approach... to addressing instances where politicians inappropriately benefit from political activities."

The MERIT Act drew its inspiration from a 60 Minutes report detailing pernicious issues of self-dealing, conflicts-of-interest, and undue influence that arise from gaps in current law, which in turn drew upon CREW's series of Family Affair reports. The legislation prohibits conversion of leadership PAC funds for personal use, putting an end to what amounts to donor-supported mortgage payments, tuition, and the like. It prevents campaign committees and affiliated leadership PACs from paying relatives of candidates as staff and purchasing goods and services from family members. The MERIT Act adds common-sense limits on how members of Congress loan money to their campaigns, and it places new disclosure requirements on lobbyists who are related to members of Congress.

The MERIT Act is a crucial step towards congressional ethics reform and empowers government oversight bodies and watchdog groups to more easily identify conflicts of interest.

The signatories on today’s letter include: Campaign Legal Center; Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW); Common Cause; Democracy 21; eCitizens.org; iSolon.org; Jim Thurber, OpenTheGovernment.org; Project on Government Oversight (POGO); Public Citizen; Represent.Us; and The Sunlight Foundation.

 

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