Paul Singer

GOP Rules Talk-Show Circuit

Republicans appear to have owned the morning news cycle in 2011.

If you were watching the major Sunday morning talk shows last year, your odds of seeing a Republican Member of Congress in the guest chair were far greater than seeing a Democratic Member of Congress.

Pelosi’s Expert Was Also Business Partner
Former Speaker Brought Family Friend to the Hill

In May 2010, then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi took to a podium in the Capitol to introduce a half-dozen economic experts she had convened for a meeting on how to jump-start the economy. The group had met for several hours with top Democratic leaders, and Pelosi invited them to speak publicly on their perspectives on economic growth.

What Pelosi did not mention is that one of the men in the group was her son's boss and a partner with her husband in more than a half-dozen investments, including one that generated more than $100,000 in income for the Speaker's family last year.

Disclosure Rules Vary for Natural Resources Panel Witnesses

When Republicans took control of the Natural Resources Committee at the beginning of the year, they established an unusual policy: All witnesses are not created equal.

House rules require witnesses who testify before committees to first submit their credentials, generally a résumé and a list of government grants and contracts they hold.

Newt Gingrich Rose to Wealth Through Congress

In 1979, an impoverished Georgia college professor named Newt Gingrich became a Member of Congress and proceeded to make himself a very rich man.

Fifteen years after coming to Congress, Gingrich was earning more than 60 times the income he reported in the year before his swearing-in. After he left the House, Gingrich leveraged his status as a former Speaker and leading Republican thinker to rise to the ranks of the truly wealthy.

Less Than Meets the Eye in Wealth Gender Gap Among Members

It is an interesting but misleading statistic: The total net worth of Congress rose by about 25 percent during the past two years, but the net worth of female Members of Congress declined by more than 20 percent over the same period.

Blame Jane Harman.

And Congress’ Rich Get Richer
Net Worth of Lawmakers Up 25 Percent in Two Years, Analysis Demonstrates

Members of Congress had a collective net worth of more than $2 billion in 2010, a nearly 25 percent increase over the 2008 total, according to a Roll Call analysis of Members' financial disclosure forms.

Nearly 90 percent of that increase is concentrated in the 50 richest Members of Congress.

FBI Saw Dark Side of Rep. John Murtha
Agency Suspected Lawmaker in Scheme Funneling Funds to Benefit Friends, Ex-Staffers

Last week’s release of FBI documents finally put in writing what nobody had ever said on the record: The FBI suspected that former Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) and lobbyists close to him were running a scheme to funnel earmarks to sham companies and nonprofits to benefit the lawmaker’s friends and former staffers.

Bits and pieces of this story were kicked around for years before Murtha died in February 2010. The Los Angeles Times, Roll Call, the Washington Post and others had documented the odd appearance of earmarks for tiny defense contractors that just happened to open an office in western Pennsylvania and just happened to hire one of the lobbying firms close to Murtha and just happened to begin making campaign donations to Murtha and other Members of Congress close to him.

Mitt Romney Adds Well-Groomed Asset to Disclosure

GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney and his wife have put their money behind a horse, and the guy who rides it.

According to a new financial disclosure form filed by the former Massachusetts governor, Romney's wife, Ann, earned $15,000 to $50,000 since the beginning of 2010 in interest on a loan to a horse farm in California called the Acres. According to a spokesman for the campaign, the item is a personal loan of more than $250,000 that Romney's wife made to the family's horse trainer.

Single Voice Sinks Coast Guard’s Rule

Last week, the U.S. Coast Guard took the unusual step of withdrawing a final rule on life jackets that it had published in March, citing as the sole reason for its reversal a critical letter from a Florida woman who was not lobbying on behalf of anybody.

The decision leaves the life jacket industry in limbo as it waits for the Coast Guard to restart its rule-making process, and it shows how a single voice can sometimes move federal mountains, even if the voice belongs to a part-time jazz singer from Wesley Chapel, Fla.

Faith Group Gets Paid for Training Hill Staff

This spring, four House Republicans used money from their Congressional office accounts to send five staff members to a training seminar run by a conservative Christian group in Indiana that is leading the charge in the state for an amendment to ban gay marriage.

The expense, totaling $2,500 for the group, is a perfectly legal use of taxpayer money, but it highlights the broad array of things Members of Congress can pay for out of their office accounts. The payments also underscore the tight web of relationships Members can build with favored causes without violating rules against using taxpayer money to fund political activity.

Ethics Committee Finally Staffs Up

The House Ethics Committee announced a major overhaul of its staff Tuesday, hiring six new counsel positions and promoting four staff members on a committee that has fewer than 30 staff positions.

The committee has been hampered since late last year by a lack of staff to advance major investigations, including the suspended investigation of Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), whose case ran aground when new evidence was uncovered and and staff members handling the matter were suspended. Waters was charged with taking official action to benefit a company in which she and her husband invested, but she has vigorously denied any wrongdoing and has demanded the committee complete its investigation of her.

Bachmann Playing With House Money
Bachmann’s Congressional Spending Shows Close Links to Political Activity

On Nov. 5, 2009, at the behest of Rep. Michele Bachmann, thousands of tea party activists descended on the Capitol to vent their rage over the health care overhaul bill pending before Congress.

The assembled activists chanted, "Kill the bill! Kill the bill!" and waved signs opposing a government takeover of health care — but they may not have known that the same government was paying for the event.

Issa’s Reported Net Worth Soars

Updated: 10:59 a.m.

House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) saw the reported value of his personal assets nearly double last year, and the only thing that may prevent him from claiming the title as the richest Member of Congress is $75 million in loans he secured in 2010.

Boehner’s Monthly $2,000 Tab
Speaker Last in House Taking Expense Checks

When John Boehner rose from Minority Leader to Speaker in January, he not only expanded his staff and his paycheck, he more than doubled the expense-account check he cashes each month.

As Minority Leader, the Ohio Republican had received a direct payment of $833 each month from taxpayers to cover “official expenses for leaders,” the same monthly total then-Majority Leader Steny Hoyer received.

Members Pay Thousands for Advice, Team Building

The website of the Enrichment Center asks, "Are you a Tranquil Turtle who is becoming exceedingly frustrated with a Much Loved Monkey?"

Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.) was apparently curious — last fall, his office paid the Enrichment Center $20,000 for "training."

Pelosi Visits Iraq Shortly After Boehner Trip

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi made her first trip to Iraq in two years this weekend, following closely on the heels of a visit by Speaker John Boehner.

Pelosi's office announced Saturday that the California Democrat "arrived in Iraq this morning with a bipartisan delegation to assess progress on redeployment, and to meet with Iraqi and U.S. officials. The delegation will meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in addition to Members of the Iraqi Parliament, and will be briefed by U.S. security and diplomatic officials."

Federal Rules Fight Sparks Reunion
GOP’s Deregulation Push Pulls In Opponents

Correction Appended

Gary Bass is getting the band back together.

Organizer of 2007 Caribbean Trip Pleads Guilty

The New York newspaper publisher who organized an annual Caribbean conference attended by some members of the Congressional Black Caucus pleaded guilty Thursday to lying to Congress about how the 2007 trip was financed.

Karl Rodney, publisher of the Carib News, admitted Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia that travel documents he provided to the House Ethics Committee in 2007 did not accurately disclose the private sponsors of the trip to Antigua and Barbuda. Rodney stated on the forms that Carib News Foundation, of which he was the CEO, was the sole sponsor of the trip. In fact, the Members’ travel and lodging were provided “by the foreign host country and a private corporation,” the Justice Department said.

Budget That Doesn’t Get Cut: Leaders’ Expenses

Congress is on a cost-cutting spree, looking for any place to trim the federal budget, but one line item appears safe: the $235,000 allocated each year for expense accounts for top leaders of each chamber.

Unlike other official accounts, these expense accounts go largely unitemized, so there is no telling how the money is spent. For the past four years, then-House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and then-House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) received $833 payments each month to cover expenses.

Boehner Signs Up Staffer for Etiquette Class

John Boehner famously grew up mopping the floors of his father’s bar, so presumably he knows little about hobnobbing with foreign royalty, one of his duties as Speaker.

So in December, the Ohio Republican’s office spent $5,800 to register a staff member for a protocol class to learn the niceties of exchanging gifts, arranging seating plans and organizing large events with visiting dignitaries.