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Accountability

GOP bill aims to block lawmakers from paying family members with campaign funds

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A new bill aims to prevent politicians from dipping into their campaign funds to pay family members for campaign services.

Introduced by Republican Rep. Pat Fallon of Texas and co-sponsored by nine other GOP lawmakers, the Family Integrity to Reform Elections (FIRE) Act would prohibit any candidate running for federal office from paying immediate family members for campaign services. Campaigns would be required to report any payments made to immediate family members, which include spouses, parents, children, siblings, and their domestic partners.  

“Current campaign finance law has allowed for millions of dollars to flow out campaigns and into the bank accounts of a candidate’s family member with little proof of what they are actually contributing,” Fallon said on Twitter.

Right now, there’s no requirement to alert the bipartisan Federal Election Commission or other governmental entity when someone on a campaign’s payroll is part of the family. Indeed, according to regulations set forth by the FEC, it is legal for lawmakers to compensate family members as long as they are “providing bona fide services to the campaign” and not being paid “in excess of the fair market value.”

To be approved, the deal would have to pass through congress, which is controlled by the Democrats.

If the deal were to be passed, penalties would be stiff. Any candidate who is found to have violated the act would be penalized with a $100,000 fine per violation or 200 percent of the compensation paid to family members, whatever is greater, or a maximum of two years of imprisonment.

Family members appearing on campaign payrolls has happened several times in the past. In 2012, 32 members of Congress together paid relatives more than $2 million in campaign funds during the election cycle, USA Today reported.

In 2017, The Hill reported that more than a dozen lawmakers paid family members from campaign accounts. And a 2020 analysis by OpenSecrets found that at least 14 members of Congress, nine Democrats and four Republicans, paid more than $15,000 each to family members from their reelection committees.

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