Dozens of lawmakers have hired their spouses and children to work for their campaigns and political groups, paying them with contributions they have collected from special interests and other donors.
A few family members earn enough to make a living. Many come cheap. They manage the books, give speeches, raise money and run the daily operations, according to an Associated Press review of records.
Such hirings are legal, but the practice became an issue this month when it was reported that the wife and daughter of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay had been paid more than $500,000 since 2001. They worked for Mr. DeLay’s political action and campaign committees.
Congressional bosses express no regrets about their family arrangements.
?My wife raised $250,000 more than I ever raised with all the expensive consultants,? said Rep. Ron Lewis, Kentucky Republican.
Mr. Lewis hired his wife, Kayi, to be his campaign director and campaign manager about a year ago, and he pays her $50,000 a year. He estimated that the hiring saved him more than $40,000 a year in salary and consulting fees.
Mary Hayworth, wife of Republican Rep. J.D. Hayworth of Arizona, earns $20,000 a year as the director and only employee of his political action committee.
?The minimal salary she’s paid is far less than if you hired somebody in from outside,? spokesman Larry VanHoose said.
AP’s review identified roughly four dozen lawmakers who hired family members for their campaign or political groups, from Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat and former presidential candidate, to a House member from Utah who paid three of his seven children for campaign work.
?I think any time someone does it, they have to be ready and willing to explain what the relative does and justify the salary,? said Larry Noble, head of the Center for Responsive Politics, a District-based campaign-finance watchdog group.
?I think when you start putting a whole family on the payroll and start putting kids on the payroll, the scrutiny may increase,? Mr. Noble added. ?It’s a form of self-dealing, and anytime you’re involved with self-dealing, questions are going to be raised.?
A smaller number of lawmakers hire relatives for their congressional staffs. The wife of Rep. Jerry Lewis, a 14-term lawmaker from California, serves as his chief of staff at a salary of nearly $111,000. Before they were married, Arlene Willis was her husband’s top aide when he came to Capitol Hill in 1979.
Mr. Lieberman’s presidential campaign paid the senator’s wife, Hadassah, at least $22,000, records show. His son Matthew received about $34,000 and his daughter Rebecca about $36,000.
Mr. Lieberman wasn’t the only one in the presidential race with a relative on the campaign payroll. Vice President Dick Cheney’s daughter Mary was paid about $81,000 by the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign.