Congressional charities provide a ‘pay-to-play’ workaround

By Laurie Bennett

September 10, 2010 at 11:58am

The New York Times took a closer look this week at charities run by members of Congress.

Its findings verified all expectations: Businesses looking for favors make big contributions.

The Times review found corporate donations to at least two dozen nonprofits founded by lawmakers or their relatives.

The charities benefit both founders and funders. Elected officials enjoy get publicity for sponsoring good works in their communities, and business interestst get access.

Members of Congress following the adage that “charity begins at home” include Joe Baca of California, Joe Barton of Texas, Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, Orrin Hatch of Utah and Dick Lugar of Indiana.

Chevron, AT&T, Morgan Stanley, General Dynamics and other businesses give millions of dollars each year. As the Times points out, donations are unlimited, and routinely exceed the limits that apply to campaign contributions.

Critics, the newspaper reported, call such donations “one of the last major unregulated fronts in the ‘pay to play’ culture in Washington.”

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