Congressman Slips Up, Admits To Congressional Bribes; Watchdog Asks DOJ To Investigate

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It’s well-known that congressional agendas are at least partially written by those paying for campaigns — that’s one of the major reasons there is so much pressure for campaign finance reform. However, it’s still illegal to directly trade money for votes, and that might be just what some congresspeople are doing. According to the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), Rep. Vance McAllister (R-LA) has stated that another congressman directly told him that they voted “no” on a bill in exchange for a donation of $1,200 to his campaign war chest.

There are specific rules against such actions. The Ethics Reform Act of 1989 prevents Congress from accepting money contributions based directly on action in office, and taking money in exchange for votes violates federal law as well as House conduct and ethics rules. From a statement by CREW:

CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan stated, “This is the story of the emperor had no clothes. Rep. McAllister made the mistake of publicly voicing what others refuse to admit: members of Congress trade votes for campaign contributions every day.”

According to a recent news report in the Ouachita Citizen, at a June 5, 2014 meeting of the Northeast Chapter of the Society of Louisiana CPAs, Rep. McAllister offered “an example of how ‘money controls Washington’ and how work on Capitol Hill is a ‘steady cycle of voting for fundraising and money instead of voting for what is right.’” The congressman said a colleague on the House floor told him that he would receive a $1,200 contribution if he voted against a bill related to the Bureau of Land Management. Rep. McAllister said he voted against the bill but did not receive a $1,200 contribution. The other member, however, did receive a check and was surprised to learn Rep. McAllister had not.

McAllister later said his remarks had been taken out of context, after they were reported on. He stated that he had “never cast a vote with the expectation or anticipation of receiving money for a vote.” According to his previous remarks, however, the unnamed congressman stated that a “no” vote on the bill in question would earn $1,200 in campaign funds from the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing think tank, while a “yes” vote would get a $1,000 check from an environmental impact group. In either case, the votes do not show representation of constituency.

Rep. McAllister has refused to give the name of the congressman in question, essentially saying it’s their business, not his. Most would argue that the ethical behavior of those in the highest levels of our government is the entire nation’s business. Part of the letter sent to the Department of Justice and House Ethics Committee by CREW asks that the name of the congressman in question be revealed.