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About Family Ties

 

LegiStorm has been quietly mapping family relations between members of Congress, their staff and lobbyists for years. In September 2011, with the launch of LegiStorm Pro, these family connections were displayed on our people summary pages.


Now, with partnership of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), we are pulling together some of our discoveries with the exhaustive work by CREW to highlight the intersection of the public interests of members of Congress with their private interests. CREW has investigated how kin of legislators sometimes can benefit from their family ties, whether in the form of earmarks, lobbying contracts or campaign payments. CREW's report can be found at http://www.citizensforethics.org/familyaffair.

 

 

Our methodology:

 

CREW supplied LegiStorm with its findings about members of the House of Representatives. It did not consider senators. We then mapped these relationships between people and organizations in our database that we did not have previously.


Where we did not have original data of our own – such as with campaign contributions and expenditures – we relied entirely on CREW’s findings.


LegiStorm expanded on CREW's methodology where we had original data – with lobbying, congressional salaries and earmarks. In these areas, we broadened the scope to all House and Senate members, including some past members of Congress, where applicable.

  • Lobbying: We have included all family members who have registered as a lobbyist with the House and Senate since 2001, or who have registered as a foreign agent with the Department of Justice.
  • Congressional salary: Using our database of congressional staff salaries covering from Oct. 1, 2000 (when our salary data begins) through the present, we have tallied all official salaries paid by a member's official office to a family member.
  • Earmarks: The earmark listings include all earmarks which were sponsored by a member of Congress where the receiving organization has some connection to a relative of the member. Those organization connections might be through employment, board membership or education. We have also included organizations which are indirectly connected to a family member, such as subsidiaries or parents or even more distantly related, where we have mapped these organization relationships. These indirect connections can provide a powerful way to connect congressional family members with earmark-receiving organizations, especially in the case of non-obvious corporate hierarchies. Or, in some cases, they can also be misleading. For example, an earmark to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory might be connected in our database to a family member who has attended UCLA's law school because these organizations are both part of the sprawling University of California system. As a practical matter, the lab earmark and the law school attendance are unlikely to be connected in any real sense. Such tangential relationships may be a small minority of the overall connections we found but the user is cautioned to examine each with care.

 

Each member's Family Ties page includes a list of all known family members, whether or not they have any notable connections. Where applicable, the relations include non-marital romantic relationships. Rumored or better-documented affairs or cohabitation are not considered if the member has not acknowledged the relationship.


We show family relations as they currently stand, not as they stood at the time of the payment in question. For example, we list Justin Spickard as the recipient of a congressional salary from his father-in-law, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) even though his marriage occurred a few months after he left Corker’s office.