It Pays To Be a Rohrabacher

There's nothing illegal about paying your spouse to work on your congressional campaign. Richard Pombo did it. So did Tom DeLay. Even local boy Dana Rohrabacher does it.

The Sunlight Foundation is busily compiling information on all sorts of representatives, but for the moment they're focusing on members of Congress and their families. Using something called a distributive research and reporting model, it took them less than two days to compile a list of every single member of the House of Representatives who employed a spouse with campaign cash. The results have yet to be verified, but for the current election cycle alone nearly 20 representatives have been identified, forking over more than $600,000 to their nearest and dearest.


Dana, Rhonda, and baby makes five

For years now, Rohrabacher has paid his wife Rhonda to help run his campaign. Back when she was Rhonda Carmony, she was so damn helpful to the Congressman that she received 300 hours of community service and a $2,800 fine for two counts of falsifying campaign documents. In the last three election cycles she has been well rewarded, receiving roughly $157,708. This time around she picked up forty grand. To be fair, she's working for her money. As Matthew Yglesias, staff writer with The American Prospect magazine, blogged back in April,

There's a pretty clear distinction here between Rhonda Rohrabacher getting paid a non-extraordinary sum of money to perform the genuine job of campaign manager and what Christine DeLay seems to be into, which is getting a very large sum of money to perform an ill-defined task.

But that's not all she gets, Bob. Rhonda also enjoys the Showcase Showdown that is round-the-world travel at the expense of whoever wants to be Dana's new best friend. Those nice people at Marketplace, American RadioWorks, and Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism compiled details on all the trips taken by elected officials at the expense of various special interests. There are 638 officials on that list, but Rohrabacher placed a respectable 17th overall.

From 2000 through mid-2005 Rohrabacher racked up an awe-inspiring $145,463 in trips, paid for by such organizations as the Islamic Free Market Institute Foundation, the Chinese International Economic Cooperation Association, the Taiwan Association for Industry and Commerce and even the Government of Qatar. On all but one of his 13 trips (that one being to Boston), Rhonda Rohrabacher and "additional family members" came along for at least part of the ride.

Again, there's nothing illegal about having special interests fund your family vacations. But in 2001, on one such Qatarian vacation, Rohrabacher met with Taliban Foreign Minister Mullah Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil, who asked Dana to please try and increase U.S. foreign aid to Afghanistan. If Rohrabacher was discussing diplomacy while on vacation then he was in violation of the Logan Act. And that is definitely illegal.


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