Congressional Spouses on Payrolls Could Face More Scrutiny
Prosecutors in the case of former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. and his spouse, Sandi, requested on Friday a sentence of up to 18 months in prison for her and four years for him. Both have pleaded guilty to their part in stealing $750,000 from Jackson’s campaign account and using it for personal use between 2005 and 2012.
Sandi Jackson was the treasurer of the campaign committee and was paid $5,000 per month as a consultant, totaling $340,500 during 84 months. She failed to report $600,000 in stolen funds as income from 2005 to 2011. Prosecutors requested 18 months prison time and restitution of $168,000. Her sentence could run first, and with good behavior she could be out in one year and serve the remainder in home confinement. The couple has two young children, ages 9 and 13.
Jesse Jackson Jr. pleaded guilty and could be sentenced to 4 years of prison, restitution of $750,000 and forfeiture of another $750,000, plus three years probation. He may serve his sentence after his spouse’s sentence.
The case was handled by the Department of Justice rather than the Federal Election Commission. The FBI used undercover agents during the investigation.
In 2001, Jackson received an advisory opinion from the FEC (AO 2001-10) indicating “the regulations specifically permit salary payments to family members where they are payments for ‘bona fide, campaign related services.'” Jackson was warned about the prohibition for personal use of campaign funds.
A report in March 2012 by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington found 82 House members (40 Democrats and 42 Republicans) paid family members through congressional offices, campaign committees and political action committees. The report highlighted: Former Texas Republican Rep. Ron Paul’s campaign paid six relatives salaries or fees. Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., paid his wife and campaign treasurer $238,438 in salary. Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-Mo., paid his sister’s law office $292,557 in fees, and former Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., paid his wife $512,293 to work in his congressional office.
In 2007, Rep. Adam B. Schiff, D-Calif., introduced a bill to bar a federal candidate’s spouse from being paid by the candidate’s campaign or leadership PAC. The bill passed the House by a voice vote. No action was taken in the Senate.